The Netherlands is often praised for its effective approach to reducing harms for people who use drugs. Amsterdam’s government-funded drug-checking services and face-to-face peer support at music festivals are celebrated for their effectiveness at keeping young people who use drugs safer. Young people develop social and temporal protective mechanisms allowing them to enjoy “hassle-free highs.” This combination of harm reduction from above and below is successful at protecting young people from drug-related harms and addressing changing trends. But how resilient is this system to societal crises? This qualitative research paper describes how the COVID-19 pandemic undermines regulating mechanisms and exposes young people who use drugs to new challenges and risks, as well as the creative responses by Amsterdam’s harm reduction programs. The adaptions to harm reduction are not only durable but provide access to the hard-to-reach private spaces of risk-taking behaviors.

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