Harm reduction aims to minimise negative health, social and legal impacts associated with drug use. It focuses on positive change and on working with people without judgement.
We undertake harm reduction techniques everyday, whether it be wearing a seatbelt when in a car or waiting for the green man to cross the road. In the world of substance use, harm reduction can come in various forms, from service provision including needle exchanges and Drug Consumption Rooms, to providing information allowing for people to make informed choices, and everything in between. Below are some simple, yet effective, techniques to keep yourself and others, as safe as possible when using any substance.
- Do not use substances out of sight of others. One of the main risks associated to taking drugs is experiencing an overdose. This often tends to be accidental when someone has just taken too much. Ideally, you should be with a ‘sober’ friend who can help and call for medical assistance if needed.
- Avoid mixing drugs. By using two or more drugs at the same time can be dangerous and have unpredictable effects. Depending on what drugs have been taken can also significantly increase the risk of experiencing an overdose.
- Do your research. If you intend to use any drug, it’s really important to learn what effects you expect to experience as well as what the risks are. It’s also important to know what to expect after the experience, such as what impact, if any, it may have on you the following day. Spend at least 2 hours doing your research.
- Know about your tolerance. Your tolerance to certain drugs may continually change, depending on how often you take them. The more you use a drug, the less effect it will have over time, which in turn may lead to you using more of it. If you previously used to take a certain drug regularly but haven’t done so for a significant period of time, your tolerance to that drug may have significantly reduced, meaning you only need to take a small amount to experience the effects you desire. Taking more of a drug than what your body can tolerate, can increase the risk of experiencing adverse effects including an overdose.
- Plan ahead. If you intend to use drugs at a party or in a nightclub, know beforehand how you intend to get home. It’s also worth planning your doses before you start using too, as when under the influence, your perception of doses may not be accurate and therefore at risk of using more than what your body can tolerate.
- Less is more. Many people take drugs for pleasurable experiences. By taking your time and not going overboard can help you get what you want from using drugs and minimise the risk of experiencing negative consequences. It’s rare that someone would rather end a night out being sick and feel hungover the next day compared to having a few drinks with friends and getting home safely.
- Many drugs are illegal and therefore unregulated. It’s hard to know what’s in different drugs and how potent and toxic they may be, just by looking at them. So, whether you buy your drugs from a dealer or via online, what you think you may be taking may be something completely different, that can lead to adverse and unpredictable effects.
- Start Low and Go Slow. Regardless of whether you are trying a drug for the first time or the hundredth, a good place to start your session is by taking a test dose. This is a small amount and then wait at least 2 hours before taking any more.
- Test your drugs. Many festivals over the last few years in the U.K. have provided drug checking facilities such as ‘The Loop‘. This is where you can get your drugs tested and find out what is in them. You can then make an informed decision of whether you still intend to use that substance, use less of it or give it a miss entirely. Community drug testing is also becoming more available. You can buy home testing kits online, but be aware, they may not always be accurate.
- Do not share. When using any substance, avoid sharing any form of paraphernalia/ drug taking equipment. This includes bongs, pipes, joints, bank notes, straws, cigarettes, needles and water, to name just a few. This can help minimise the risk of transmitting and contracting any viruses from hepatitis to the coronavirus.
- Let people know what you have taken. If you find yourself if difficulties and experiencing negative effects due to taking a substance(s), it is important to let someone know what you think you have taken and how much. You can then get the right help and medical assistance, to ensure that you have the best opportunity to fully recover.
- Look after your mates. If you start to feel unwell, let someone know and what you have taken. Go to a quiet place where you can relax and chill out. If you know someone has taken drugs and they are asleep, put them into the recovery position and regularly check on them, to avoid the risk of them choking on their own vomit. If needed, seek medical assistance immediately if you are concerned.
- Keep hydrated. Sip half a pint / pint of water every hour, during your session.
- Take a break. If you have taken drugs in the last few days, have at least a few drink/ drug-free days to give your body a chance to recover. Be aware though, that your tolerance can reduce during extended drink/ drug-free breaks, and therefore you may only need to take a smaller amount to experience the same effects, if there is a next time.
- Safe and consented sex. When under the influence, you may be more likely to do things you wouldn’t normally do. It can also impair your judgement. Ensure that if you intend to have sex, that all individuals involved consent to this before and during. It is also always best to prepare for certain situations too, such as carrying contraception, like condoms or dams, if you do end up having sex. You can get free condoms from any of our services and free home STI testing kits from Frisky Wales.
- Avoid using machinery. If you are under the influence, do not drive or use any other forms of machinery or tools.
- Reach out for support. If you are concerned about your own, or a loved one’s drug use, you can get free, confidential support from any of our services. Our trained staff provide 1-2-1 support, without judgement, for anyone affected by substance use, and facilitate you in making the changes you wish to make. Why not chat immediately to a trained support worker via our Live Webchat Service.