From opiates to methamphetamine: building new harm reduction responses in Jakarta, Indonesia

Rafaela Rigoni*, Sara Woods, Joost J. Breeksema

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    10 Citations (Scopus)
    80 Downloads (Pure)


    Background: Despite the rise of stimulant use, most harm reduction programs still focus on people who inject opioids, leaving many people who use methamphetamine (PWUM) underserviced. In Asia, especially, where methamphetamine prevalence has overtaken opioids prevalence, harm reduction programs assisting PWUM are rare. The few existing innovative practices focusing on methamphetamine use lie underreported. Understanding how these programs moved their focus from opiates to methamphetamine could help inspire new harm reduction responses. Hence, this paper analyzes a newly implemented outreach program assisting methamphetamine users in Jakarta, Indonesia. It addresses the program's critical learning points when making the transition to respond to stimulant use.

    Methods: This case study is part of a more extensive research on good practices of harm reduction for stimulant use. For this case study, data was collected through Indonesian contextual documents and documents from the program, structured questionnaire, in-depth interviews with service staff and service users, a focus group discussion with service users, and in-loco observations of activities. For this paper, data was reinterpreted to focus on the key topics that needed to be addressed when the program transitioned from working with people who use opioids to PWUM.

    Results: Four key topics were found: (1) getting in touch with different types of PWUM and building trust relationships; (2) adapting safer smoking kits to local circumstances; (3) reframing partnerships while finding ways to address mental health issues; and (4) responding to local law enforcement practices.

    Conclusions: The meaningful involvement of PWUM was essential in the development and evaluation of outreach work, the planning, and the adaptation of safer smoking kits to local circumstances. Also, it helped to gain understanding of the broader needs of PWUM, including mental health care and their difficulties related to law enforcement activities. Operating under a broad harm reduction definition and addressing a broad spectrum of individual and social needs are preferable to focusing solely on specific interventions and supplies for safer drug use. Since many PWUM smoke rather than inject, securing funding for harm reduction focused on people who do not inject drugs and/or who do not use opioids is fundamental in keeping programs sustainable.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number67
    Number of pages13
    JournalHarm Reduction Journal
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 11-Dec-2019


    • Methamphetamine
    • Shabu
    • Harm reduction
    • Stimulants
    • Outreach work
    • Indonesia
    • Community-based

    Cite this