YouTube and Harm Reduction

It is hard to believe that You Tube only commenced in 2005.  Before that time we were limited to Funniest Home videos series for our fix of video related humour.  But seriously the advent of You Tube and similar video sharing sites has revolutionised the internet, making it so easy for media consumers to become media producers.  If we think about how harm reduction has often been portrayed in traditional media (T.V. , newspapers,  etc.) we can begin to see what an opportunity sites like You Tube offer.  Traditional media has often offered sensationalised and/or slanted coverage of alcohol and other drug issues with the prime purpose of increasing circulation/ratings.  In short traditional media is an imperfect vehicle  for the development and delivery of harm reduction information.  You Tube has allowed the harm reduction community to wrestle back the means of media  production  and enabled us to deliver accurate information to the community.

Let’s have a look at some examples.

Drug Law Reform

The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU) is a non-profit human rights watchdog NGO established in Budapest, Hungary in 1994. The Drug Reporter channel facilitated by the HCLU contains over 100 videos concerned with drug users human rights, law reform and right to interventions such as peer administered naloxone and needle exchange programs that can significantly reduce drug related harm.

Operating a similar channel , The Drug Policy Alliance is  the leading organization in the United States promoting alternatives to the war on drugs. The alliance aims to reduce the harms of both drug misuse and drug prohibition and to promote drug policies based on science, compassion, health and human rights. With over 90 videos, the channel has a strong emphasis on advocating for the end of the war on drugs and includes many commercial media interviews with leading U.S. anti prohibition advocates.

Harm Reduction

The Exchange Supplies and  Harm Reduction Works channels both originate out of the U.K. providing high quality videos that provide practical harm reduction information that is accessible and useful to both harm reduction workers and drug users.

In Australia, ANEX the national peak organisation for needle exchange programs has also developed a You Tube channel .  The channel contains information about clients rights to treatment, and confidentiality and includes interviews with many of Australia’s leading advocates for harm reduction.  The channel also contains videos that deliver harm reduction information that can be useful in the training of drug users and harm reduction workers.

You Tube and You

The You Tube Channels we have had a look at so far have all been produced by organisations and attract thousands of views, however one of the strengths of You Tube is it’s ease of use which enables ‘grass roots’ supporters of harm reduction to develop a message.  Check out the Neuro Soup Channel to see what I mean.  Using a backdrop (wear your sunglasses people!) and video camera on tripod, Krystle Cole has recorded over 100 videos dealing with drugs, spirituality and psychedelic experience.  While I wouldn’t necessarily agree with everything that Krystle asserts, I do consider her series on trip preparation a useful harm reduction tool for pre contemplators who are considering use of hallucinogens.

Krystle’s approach has also demonstrated to me how easy it is to disseminate harm reduction information on You Tube.  Her channel has attracted over 540, 000 channel views since 2007 with what appears to be a very small expenditure of resources.

A How To.

Setting up a You Tube Channel is relatively straight forward.  All you need is an email address.  Once your channel has been set up you can start populating it.  The simplest way would be to simply record from a web cam and then upload your footage to You Tube.  See example below.

Once you have uploaded a video you need to let other people know it is there.  I find using my existing networks on Twitter and Facebook  pretty useful for promoting videos.

Of course recording on your webcam is just one way that you can go about it.  I’ve experimented with a number of services such as Animoto and Xtranormal that allow you to produce animations and music video style clips.  To check them out go to


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