Harm Reduction & Drug Policy Reform Organizations

DanceSafe is a non-profit public health organization promoting health and safety within the nightlife and electronic music community. Founded in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1998 by Emanuel Sferios, DanceSafe quickly grew into a national organization with chapters in cities across North America.

DanceSafe has two fundamental operating principles: harm reduction and peer-based, popular education. Combining these two principles has enabled DanceSafe to create successful, peer-based educational programs to reduce drug misuse and empower young people to make healthy, informed lifestyle choices. They are known for bringing adulterant screening, also known as pill testing or drug checking, to the rave and nightlife community in the U.S., and for distributing unbiased educational literature describing the effects and risks associated with the use of various drugs. As an organization, DanceSafe provides:

  • Safe spaces to engage in conversations about health, drug use, and personal safety;

  • Free water and electrolytes to prevent dehydration and heatstroke;

  • Free safe sex tools to avoid unwanted pregnancies and the spread of STIs;

  • Free earplugs to prevent hearing damage at music events;

  • Honest, fact-based, unbiased information on drug effects and potential harms to empower users to make informed decisions;

  • Nonjudgmental, first-point-of-contact advice regarding risky or challenging situations;

  • Drug checking services to prevent overdose and death; and

  • Conversations with promoters and local stakeholders advocating for safety-first approaches to drug use at events.

In the Summer of 2018, a small group of friends and I founded the New Mexico chapter of DanceSafe (see above). Since then, our chapter has grown to include nearly two dozen volunteers who spend our time providing education, material resources, and more to the local community.

PsychonautWiki is a community-driven online encyclopedia that aims to document the emerging field of psychonautics (the exploration of altered states) in a comprehensive, scientifically-grounded manner. Their primary objectives include:

  • Documenting all aspects of psychonautic theory and practice (including meditation, lucid dreaming, psychoactive substance use, sensory deprivation, ritual, etc.) from an evidence-based, academic perspective.

  • Providing accessible education, encouraging safe practices, and reforming cultural taboos around the responsible use of psychoactive substances, using both expert and crowd-sourcing methods.

  • Promoting a culture of free thought and personal autonomy by safeguarding the information needed to make informed decisions over altering one's body and consciousness.

Erowid is a non-profit educational & harm reduction resource whose mission is to provide and facilitate access to objective, accurate, and non-judgmental information about psychoactive plants, chemicals, technologies, and other related issues. Some of Erowid's projects include:

  • An online library containing over 63,000 documents related to over 737 psychoactive substances. The library includes images, research summaries and abstracts, FAQs, media articles, experience reports, information on chemistry, dosage, effects, law, health, traditional and spiritual use, and drug testing.

  • The "Experience Vault," where site visitors are able to submit descriptions of their own personal experiences with psychoactive substances for review and possible publication. They welcome all perspectives regarding personal psychoactive experience, including positive, negative, and neutral.

  • Erowid Extracts, a bi-annual members' newsletter of Erowid, provides updates on the organization's activities, results of surveys conducted on, experience reports, new articles on various aspects of psychoactive plants and drugs, and information about psychedelic culture and events.

My involvement with Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) played an instrumental role in developing my passion for public health, harm reduction, and drug policy reform by enabling me to connect, share ideas, and organize with like-minded peers and mentors.

SSDP is the largest global youth-led network dedicated to ending the War on Drugs. The organization creates change by providing a platform where members collaborate, communicate, share resources with, and coach each other to generate policy change, deliver honest drug education, and promote harm reduction. Founded in 1998, SSDP is comprised of thousands of members in hundreds of communities around the globe.

SSDP is primarily composed of students who are concerned about the impact of drug use on our communities, but who also know that the “War on Drugs” is failing our generation and our society. The goal of the organization is to mobilize and empower students to participate in the political process, pushing for sensible policies to achieve a safer and more just future. SSDP does this while fighting back against counterproductive policies – in particular, those that directly harm students and youth.

Due to the unregulated nature of black markets, criminalized drugs are often adulterated or misrepresented. While it is nearly impossible to determine a substance's contents by immediately observable characteristics alone, DrugsData enables individuals to send in samples of their substances for laboratory analysis.

DrugsData is the independent laboratory drug analysis program of Erowid Center. Launched in July 2001, its purpose is to collect, manage, review, and present laboratory drug analysis results. The information is made publicly available to help harm reduction efforts, medical personnel, and researchers. While some government agencies analyze psychoactive drugs, they choose to restrict the data they collect and make it private to law enforcement interests.

DrugsData collects lab testing results from a variety of organizations, but primarily commissions its own tests conducted by Drug Detection Labs (DDL). All samples are submitted to DrugsData anonymously by mail. DrugsData also helps other analysis projects to publish and manage their testing data.

The Drug Policy Alliance envisions a just society in which the use and regulation of drugs are grounded in science, compassion, health, and human rights. Their mission is to advance those policies and attitudes that best reduce the harms of both drug use and drug prohibition, and to promote the sovereignty of individuals over their minds and bodies. Some of their values and priorities include:

  • Extensively reducing the role of criminalization in drug policy so that people are no longer punished for what they put into their bodies.

  • Advocating for the responsible and equitable legal regulation of marijuana to reduce the harms caused by prohibition and bring in new sources of tax revenue.

  • Promoting health-centered drug policies by advocating for services such as treatment on demand, supervised consumption services, drug maintenance therapies, and syringe access programs.

  • Empowering youth, parents, and educators with honest, reality-based drug education that moves beyond inaccurate, fear-based messages and zero-tolerance policies.

The National Harm Reduction Coalition’s mission is to promote the health and dignity of individuals and communities affected by drug use. As a national advocacy and capacity-building organization, they aim to shift power and resources to people most vulnerable to structural violence and racialized drug policies. Some of the organization's primary focuses include syringe access implementation, opioid overdose prevention, naloxone training, and more.

The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is an American nonprofit organization working to raise awareness and understanding of psychedelic substances. MAPS helps scientists design, fund, and obtain regulatory approval for studies of the safety and effectiveness of a number of controlled substances. MAPS works closely with government regulatory authorities worldwide such as the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to ensure that all of its sponsored research protocols conform to ethical and procedural guidelines for clinical drug research.

Included in MAPS' research efforts are MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine) for the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD); LSD and psilocybin for the treatment of anxiety, cluster headaches, and depression associated with end-of-life issues; ibogaine for the treatment of opiate addiction, ayahuasca for the treatment of drug addiction and PTSD; and medical cannabis for PTSD. The organization's ultimate goal is to establish a network of clinics where these and other treatments can be provided together with other therapies under the guidance of trained, licensed physicians and therapists.

Filter is a publication whose mission is to advocate for rational and compassionate approaches to drug use, drug policy, and human rights through journalism. The publication is owned and operated by The Influence Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.