Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


School of Public Health

First Advisor

Kaveh Khoshnood

Second Advisor

Kimberly Sue


Background: Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) substance use data is typically aggregated in a way that not only produces overly generalized results, but also potentially perpetuates stereotypes created by the Model Minority Myth (MMM). This has mutually reinforced a lack of representation and understanding of AAPI substance use experiences and needs. This presents a public health concern that is both excluding them from consideration by the field of harm reduction, but also themselves from considering harm reduction. Disaggregated data shows rising rates of substance use and associated harms that are often hidden or not taken as seriously as a public health issue, raising concerns that the lack of problem recognition of AAPI substance use issues will preclude them from being meaningfully and intentionally engaged by harm reduction organizations. This exploratory qualitative study examines the perceptions and relationships that AAPIs have with substance use and harm reduction by having them explore the question: “Who is harm reduction is for?”

Methods: 15 qualitative interviews with adult AAPIs living in the U.S., with personal and/or professional experience with substance use or substance use topics were conducted in English over Zoom. Interview data was analyzed using thematic analysis.

Results: Three overarching themes were identified: that substance use was a contributing factor in how AAPIs defined their social positionality; that problem recognition of substance use was doubly erased by both AAPIs and non-AAPIs; and that harm reduction was something AAPIs did not see as expressly inclusive of their community, but rather for ‘others’: white people, people who used opioids, and people who injected drugs.

Conclusions: Harm reduction and public health organizations need to make more efforts to better integrate minoritized communities, like AAPIs, not just to ensure the availability of culturally-responsive substance use resources, but also to challenge deeply held stigmas and stereotypes.


This is an Open Access Thesis.

Open Access

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