Harm reduction, intoxication and pleasure

Harm reduction, intoxication and pleasure

This paper aims to raise some of the issues related to pleasure and harm reduction. For example, are these two concepts at odds with each other, or can pleasure be incorporated into harm reduction approaches? The tensions in the relationship between harm reduction and ‘pleasure’ will be demonstrated using the examples of illicit drug use and alcohol.

Harm reduction interventions and campaigns are often argued to ‘speak past’ user’s actual experiences of using alcohol and other drugs, particularly Government sponsored campaigns about illicit drug use or ‘risky’ drinking. The reasons why this is the case will be explored, not least because pleasure in drug use is under theorised in this context and often ignored in harm reduction campaigns and interventions.

The concept of intoxication is also important in considering the issues related to harm reduction and pleasure. Intoxication is commonly a deliberately sought after state, in direct opposition to public health guidelines to stay safe e.g. by being abstinent, by drinking less or adhering to number of drinks per occasion recommendations. This paper will critically explore the issues raised and consider ‘where to’ for the concept of harm reduction.

About the presenter:

Fiona Hutton is a Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Criminology, Victoria University, New Zealand. She has taught and researched in the areas of Criminology, specifically criminological theory, youth crime and cultures, drug policy, harm reduction, alcohol and other drugs, for the past twenty years. She has published extensively in New Zealand and international journals on her research, most recently in Critical Public Health (2016), The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology (2017), The Journal of Drug Issues (2016), Feminism and Psychology (2016). She is the author of ‘Risky Pleasures? Club Cultures and Feminine Identities’ (Ashgate, 2006). Current research projects include: exploring the ways drug use and drug users are demonised and stigmatised through a variety of media and other discourses; critically exploring the concept of intoxication, and how the intoxication practices of diverse groups are experienced and responded to (through an edited collection with Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming in 2019).

Date & time

Mon 03 Dec 2018, 12–1pm


Larry Saha Room, Haydon Allen Building, ANU


Fiona Hutton


Tim Graham


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