Resolution 8: Increasing Harm Reduction Education for Medical Students and Family Physicians in Washington State

Brought by: Katie Schmidt, MD, MPH; Sarah Hemphill, MD, MPH; Zannah Herridge-Meyer, MD, MPH; Emily Thorn, MD, MPH

WHEREAS, harm reduction is a risk-reduction approach to substance use disorders, whereby people who use drugs are engaged with directly by health professionals to (1) prevent overdose and transmission of infectious diseases, and (2) lower barriers to accessing substance use and mental health treatment services, with a goal of promoting safer drug use and not necessarily abstinence1, and

WHEREAS, harm reduction strategies including medications for opioid use disorder, overdose and safe drug use education, naloxone distribution, fentanyl and xylazine test strip distribution, needle and syringe exchange programs, safe use supplies, and safe use sites are evidence-based strategies that decrease risk for patients and the community2,3, and

WHEREAS, medications for opioid use disorder and alcohol use disorder have been shown to improve patient survival and quality of life2, 3, 4, 5, and

WHEREAS, in undergraduate and graduate medical education, harm reduction education is variable across institutions and in many cases extremely limited3, now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, that the Washington Academy of Family Physicians advocate for harm reduction education to be a required component of the curriculum taught by medical schools and residencies in Washington State, and be it further

RESOLVED, that the Washington Academy of Family Physicians recommend a minimum standard of hours and curricular content to be included in this critical education and recognize the crucial role that students can play in this field, and be it further

RESOLVED, that the Washington Academy of Family Physicians educate its members about harm reduction and medication assisted treatment for substance use disorders, and be it further

RESOLVED, that the Washington Academy of Family Physicians advocate to the Washington State Legislature for funding for harm reduction resources and training for health care providers.


  1. “Harm Reduction.” Published April 24, 2023. Accessed February 25, 2024.
  2. Frank CJ, Morrison L. “Harm Reduction for Patients with Substance Use Disorders.” 2022, American Family Physician, 105 (1); 90-92.
  3. Smith KR, Shah NK, Adamczyk A, Weinstein L, Kelly E. “Harm reduction in undergraduate and graduate medical education: a systematic scoping review.” 2023, BMC Med Educ, 23 (986).
  4. Press KR, Zornberg GZ, Geller G, Carrese J, Fingerhood MI. What patients with addiction disorders need from their primary care physicians: A qualitative study. Subst Abus. 2016 Apr-Jun;37(2):349-55. doi: 10.1080/08897077.2015.1080785. Epub 2015 Sep 11. PMID: 26360503.
  5. DeFlavio JR, Rolin SA, Nordstrom BR, Kazal LA Jr. Analysis of barriers to adoption of buprenorphine maintenance therapy by family physicians. Rural Remote Health. 2015;15:3019. Epub 2015 Feb 4. PMID: 25651434.
  6. Barbour, K., McQuade, M. & Brown, B. Students as effective harm reductionists and needle exchange organizers. Subst Abuse Treat Prev Policy 12, 15 (2017).