HAMS Is Not Gradualism

There is a school of thought within harm reduction philosophy called “Gradualism” which believes that abstinence (or sometimes moderation) is best for everyone, but that some people can only attain abstinence by taking tiny steps instead of getting there all at once. Scott Kellogg at NYU is one of the pioneers of Gradualism and has written about it in papers such as “Gradualism, identity, reinforcements, and change“.

HAMS is not Gradualism per se. HAMS can best be described as individualism. HAMS does not believe that recreational intoxication is a disease or a violation of morality. HAMS believes that intoxication is the choice of the individual. Just as we believe that homosexuality is neither a disease nor a crime nor an immoral act we hold that the same is true of recreational intoxication. What is a true crime is the fact the US drug laws imprison people for choosing to engage in recreational intoxication. This is as medieval and barbaric as jailing people for homosexuality.

HAMS supports every individual member in choosing their own goal regarding their substance use, whether that goal is abstinence or moderate use or safe intoxication. We would never seek to impose a goal on anyone from outside no more than we would seek to impose heterosexuality on everyone.

HAMS also supports each individual on their personal choice of methods to achieve their substance use goals. This includes the method of Gradualism for those who choose to use it. Gradualism is what I used to quit cigarettes, although I am maintaining a harm reduction approach to nicotine by limiting my smoking to one cigar per week.

Other methods which our members use include:

  • Using naltrexone via the Sinclair method to move from heavy drinking to more moderate drinking.
  • Using antabuse to achieve abstinence days alternating with intoxication days (warning—it takes several days for antabuse to clear the system)
  • Implementing safe drinking strategies
  • Counting and charting drinks
  • Etc, etc.

HAMS says that it is time to put an end to the pathologization and criminalization of recreational intoxication. Safe substance intoxication is neither crime nor disease–it is hobby.

Hence, although some members of HAMS use Gradualism to eliminate habits which they themselves choose to eliminate, HAMS itself never sets a goal of abstinence for any member. Hence, HAMS is not Gradualism.

Copyright © 2008, The HAMS Harm Reduction Network

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About Kenneth Anderson

Kenneth Anderson is the author of the book How to Change Your Drinking: a Harm Reduction Guide to Alcohol. He is also the founder and CEO of The HAMS Harm Reduction Network.
This entry was posted in Alcohol, alcohol harm reduction, gradualism, hams harm reduction network, harm reduction and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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