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The HAMS Harm Reduction Network is an international non-profit organization which provides assistance to individuals seeking to reduce the harm in their lives associated with the use of alcohol or other substances. The acronym HAMS stands for Harm reduction, Abstinence and Moderation Support. HAMS provides both information and support groups for people who wish to change their drinking for the better. The approach used is pragmatic and humanistic. HAMS works from the premise that whereas many individuals are unwilling or unable to abstain from alcohol, anyone can learn to practice safer drinking habits and thus reduce the negative impact that their use of alcohol has on themselves and society at large

The HAMS program encourages members to do a Cost Benefit Analysis of their drinking and to choose a goal of safer drinking, reduced drinking, or quitting. Members are encouraged to chart their progress and report it in groups. HAMS methodology is based on both Prochaska's Stages of Change Model[1] and evidence-based harm reduction practices such as those described by Denning[2] and Marlatt[3]. HAMS was incorporated in the state of New York in 2007. The HAMS Harm Reduction Strategies have been compiled in the HAMS handbook, How to Change Your Drinking: a Harm Reduction Guide to Alcohol[4].

The HAMS Elements

The HAMS program consists of 17 elements. These are called elements rather than steps because they are all optional and they may be done in any order. These are the 17 elements:

  1. Do a Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) of your drinking
  2. Choose a drinking goal--safer drinking, reduced drinking, or quitting
  3. Learn about risk ranking and rank your risks
  4. Learn about the HAMS tools and strategies for changing your drinking
  5. Make a plan to achieve your drinking goal
  6. Use alcohol-free time to reset your drinking habits
  7. Learn to cope without booze
  8. Address outside issues that affect drinking
  9. Learn to have fun without booze
  10. Learn to believe in yourself
  11. Use a chart to plan and track your drinks and drinking behaviors day by day
  12. Evaluate your progress - honestly report struggles - revise plans or goals as needed
  13. Practice damage control as needed
  14. Get back on the horse
  15. Graduate from HAMS, stick around, or come back
  16. Praise yourself for every success!!
  17. Move at your own pace--you don't have to do it all at once

The HAMS Toolbox

The toolbox is a comprehensive listing of strategies which individuals can use to build their own alcohol harm reduction program. These include such varied strategies as drinking only in bars to reduce consumption, drinking only at home to avoid social problems related to alcohol, the substitution of medical marijuana for alcohol, and AA Deprogramming to avoid the "one drink one drunk" syndrome.

The HAMS Motto

"Better is better"


  1. Prochaska J. O., Norcross J. C., DiClemente C. C. (1994). Changing for good. New York: Morrow. ISBN 038072572X
  2. Denning P., Little J., Glickman A. (2004). Over the Influence: The Harm Reduction Guide for Managing Drugs and Alcohol. New York: Guilford Press. ISBN 1572308001
  3. Marlatt G. (1998). Harm reduction: pragmatic strategies for managing high risk behaviors. New York: Guilford Press ISBN 1572308257
  4. Anderson, K. (2010). How to Change Your Drinking: a Harm Reduction Guide to Alcohol. New York: The HAMS Harm Reduction Network, Inc. ISBN 145383060X

Further reading

Anderson, K. (2010). How to Change Your Drinking: a Harm Reduction Guide to Alcohol. New York: The HAMS Harm Reduction Network, Inc. ISBN 145383060X

External links