FAQs

Want to know more about Unharm? The is the page for you.

What is Unharm trying to do?

A:

Unharm is campaigning to make drug use as safe, positive and ethical as possible. Unharm aims to abolish arbitrary punishment, in favour of drug policies that enhance people’s own capacities for care and responsibility.

How does it do that?

A:

Unharm operates as a volunteer organisation of committed activists here in Sydney and a network of supporters nationwide.  If you support Unharm’s mission then please join us! Unharm has run digital campaigns, joined street protests, developed campaign stories, provided policy direction, placed opinion pieces and provided comment for major news organisations across TV, print and radio. This work fits into three interwoven themes:

 

  1. Movement building. You know how much stigma, fear and ignorance there is around illegal drugs? Unharm runs events and digital spaces where people can share stories and information with honesty, optimism, and empowerment. These spaces are open to everybody, regardless of drug use.

  2. Campaigning: All over the world, a movement is building. We’ve had War on Drugs and now it’s time for drug policy that puts people first. Unharm organises campaigns where people like you can help make that real.

  3. Research and policy direction: You know how people often say the War on Drugs has failed? They've been saying it for 30 years. Unharm’s research and policy work isn’t just here to tell you what’s wrong with the world, or rehash the same old ideas. It works towards real alternatives based on aspiration towards accountability, responsibility and wellbeing.

Why is it called Unharm?

A:

Prohibition has compounded the risks of drug use and been a humanitarian and economic disaster. ‘Unharm’ represents the idea that we should not cause harm and should work to undo harm we see done to others. It’s a non-violent alternative to War on Drugs.

How can we make drug use as as safe, positive and ethical as possible?

A:

‘Silver bullets’ and scapegoating aren’t going to fix the drug-related problems we’re experiencing as a society. Making drug use as safe, positive and ethical as it can be is going to take all of us: individuals, communities and governments.

 

Most drug use is ‘non-problematic’ so most people who use drugs are clearly doing something right. Examples of responsible drug use will always be the most efficient way of making drug use as safe, positive and ethical as it can be. Safe environments and opportunities for education are fundamental too, especially for young people.

 

People who experience abuse, isolation and stress are more likely to engage in harmful drug use. Safe and healthy communities that support the wellbeing of people are the best antidote to drug-related problems. Building those communities is crucial.

 

Programs that promote safety among people who use drugs - like needle and syringe exchange - have shown great success in preventing drug related problems, and should be widely accessible. Treatment and rehabilitation for people experiencing substantial drug-related problems are essential too, and the long waiting lists to access these services must be addressed.

 

We need to get the laws right. Arresting 100,000 drug users every year hasn’t solved any of our problems, it doesn’t prevent addiction or promote wellbeing, and most Australians agree it doesn’t make sense. We should stop trying to arrest our way out of our problems, because we can’t.


What we can do is properly regulate the market that thrives despite law enforcement getting the bulk of Australia’s drug budget. Big drug busts drive up prices and profits. Production chains and contents are opaque, and retailers play by their own rules. A great deal of danger comes from not knowing – and by law not being allowed to know – what you are buying. Regulating prohibited substances would enable broader and more effective control over production and sale. US states that have regulated recreational cannabis have also shown they can save on law enforcement costs while raising taxes that are plowed back into health and education.

What about ice or heroin use - shouldn’t that be a crime?

A:

No. Criminalisation of drug use is as counterproductive for ice or heroin as it is for any other illegal drug.

Is Unharm a harm reduction organisation?

A:

No, but Unharm’s mission complements ‘harm reduction’ programs like needle and syringe exchanges, which have been shown to be effective in making drug use safer.

 

Unharm aims to bring the focus back to people, by remaining neutral about drugs. ‘Promoting safety’ and ‘promoting wellbeing’ are good alternatives that avoid stigmatisation and make positive connections to people’s own practices of care and responsibility.


Harmful drug use is also often rooted in deeper problems, like trauma, arbitrary criminalisation or isolation. Practically and morally, wellbeing requires that we to do more than reduce the harms of drug use. We have to build and maintain communities where people can live well.

Can I get involved with Unharm?

A:

Yes please! If you support what Unharm is trying to do, you are a supporter already. Unharm relies on supporter donations and volunteers to do its work, and we are always looking to expand. Pop your name on our mailing list to stay in the loop with what's going on. 

Does Unharm promote drug use?

A:

No and at any rate, drug use doesn’t need any promoting. Unharm promotes a non-violent, ethical alternative to the War on Drugs.

Do all Unharm supporters use illegal drugs?

A:

No. What Unharm supporters have in common is that they care about people, regardless of their drug use. If you support the mission of Unharm, please join us.

How did Unharm begin?

A:

Unharm was founded in 2014. At the time, Executive Director Will Tregoning was working on drug policy as a research consultant to government, and becoming frustrated that while the War on Drugs had failed, there was no real alternative. Despite promising reforms worldwide, the discussion about drugs was based on dishonesty about who used drugs and why. Characteristically, privileged people were relatively immune from the harms of prohibition. Combined with the risks of admitting to illegal drug use, that meant many with the capacity to help weren’t getting involved. Journalist and author Lisa Pryor wrote about these issues in her 2011 book A small book about drugs. In conversation, Will and Lisa came up with the idea for Unharm and brought in co-founders Miles Hunt, a lawyer and activist, and Gideon Warhaft, an entrepreneur with a long involvement in drug policy. They established Unharm as a not-for-profit, volunteer-run organisation in 2014.

How is Unharm funded?

A:

Unharm is a volunteer organisation funded by donations from people like you. Please donate today!