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Journal Article


Khorasheh T, Naraine R, Watson TM, Wright A, Kallio N, Strike C. Drug Alcohol Rev. 2019; 38(2): 131-150.


Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.


(Copyright © 2019, John Wiley and Sons)






ISSUES: Preventable overdose deaths, especially due to opioids, have increasingly been reported worldwide. Expansion of life-saving harm reduction services is underway with increasing public support in some jurisdictions. However, such services often fall short of reaching people who use drugs (PWUD), in part, due to law enforcement practices that are aligned with punitive drug laws and incongruent with harm reduction principles. One suggested strategy to facilitate police understanding and uptake of practices that are more congruent with harm reduction is to provide police with relevant training. APPROACH: This scoping review synthesises English-language peer-reviewed and grey literature on harm reduction training programs for police. KEY FINDINGS: We reviewed 31 sources and found that most trainings covered topics related to harm reduction objectives, overdose recognition and response, occupational safety and policing practices. Information was often presented via single-session, 1-hour long, slide-assisted presentations that were integrated into in-service trainings. Inconsistent throughout the literature was the career stage or position/rank of training audience (e.g. cadets, senior officers, street-level officers), when and how much training should be provided, and the occupational background of the training facilitator. IMPLICATIONS: The available literature contains significant gaps pertaining to descriptions of training development, design and content specific to facilitating positive police-PWUD interactions, and formal evaluations. These gaps limit our understanding of what well-designed trainings may look like, if and how training alters policing practices, and to what extent training completion may lead to improved outcomes.

CONCLUSION: Greater research and formal evaluations of harm reduction training for police is recommended.

© 2019 Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs.

Language: en


harm reduction; police; scoping review; training


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