Harm Reduction

Harm reduction is defined as “reducing the harm associated with gambling” or “increasing the safety related to continued gambling.” 

The intent of a harm reduction approach is to decrease the amount of money and time spent gambling in addition to consequences incurred when gambling.

A harm reduction approach can be used by anyone who is experiencing negative consequences in any areas of their lives (physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, financially, legally, personally, family, community, employment or leisure) as a result of their gambling.

Harm reduction strategies may include:

    • Setting limits on the amount of money spent on gambling (e.g., only bringing a limited amount of cash earmarked for gambling purposes and leaving ATM cards and credit cards at home).
    • Gambling with designated money, not using monies allocated for other expenses (e.g., rent or mortgage, vehicle payments, utilities, grocery or tuition, draining savings or checking accounts, borrowing against retirement accounts or pawning items).
    • Negotiating with oneself or a spouse agreed upon times to gamble and then staying within that time frame.
    • Remaining mindful of physical needs when gambling (e.g., taking a break from gambling, getting fresh air, eating, using restroom facilities).

A harm reduction approach may be appropriate for some individuals, but not all. There are currently no predictors about who these individuals may be. (However, if you’ve attempted to set limits for yourself with gambling previously and unable to adhere to this, it likely may not be the best approach for you).

A harm reduction approach empowers an individual to make informed choices as it allows the individual the flexibility to explore which goals best match their needs.

A harm reduction approach tends to be more successful for individuals who are in the early phase of the gambling disorder vs. moderate to late phases.

Some individuals will find much success with this approach. Others learn it is easier to abstain, but that is each individual’s own choice.