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General Harm Reduction

Below are some tips to reduce harm from alcohol and other drugs. For specific pieces of harm reduction advice please visit the individual drug information page.

- Research the substance before trying it
- Plan how you are getting home before you start your night
- Avoid taking drugs alone and have a 'straight/sober' friend around if possible
- Tell someone what you have taken, how much and when
- Try not to accept/buy drugs from people you don't know
- Avoid mixing with other drugs, including alcohol
- If using for the first time or using a new batch/packet take a test dose first
- Use scales to measure dose
- Start by taking small amounts – this might be quarter of a pill, one small line, a single skin joint
- Pace yourself and wait two hours before taking any more
- Keep hydrated, drink small sips of water (about 0.5-1 pint per hour)
- If experiencing issues with jaw clenching, chew gum or soft sweets
- Take regular breaks when dancing
- Use safe sex practices
- If you start to feel unwell, tell someone and be honest about what has been taken
- If the effects are too extreme try to relax and take small sips of flat sugary juice
- If the person taking drugs is sleeping or unconscious place them in the recovery position (on their side) and check them frequently to ensure they are okay
- Testing kits are available online and can give a greater understanding of what the drugs contain but they may not be efficient enough to identify newer compounds or adulterants
- Try to have a few drink/drug free days a week to allow your body to recover
- Get regular health check-ups and tests for blood borne viruses (e.g. hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV)


In addition the following harm reduction advice can be used when using certain routes of administration:


- If using rolling papers use as little paper as possible
- Clean all pipes/bongs regularly
- Use a filter or non-printed, long roach
- Avoid holding smoke in your lungs as this can damage tissue without giving a better 'hit’
- Use glass or metal pipes where possible as these give off less fumes than wood and plastic
- If smoking from foil use clean foil each time. This is available from needle exchanges


- Grind substances before snorting
- Use a straw as a 'tooter/snorter' rather than money and throw away after use
- Position the 'tooter/snorter' as high up the nostril as possible
- Don't share your 'tooter/snorter' with anyone else (this could spread viruses)
- Alternate nostrils
- Rinse out your nose with water afterwards. Some powders, like ketamine, clump in the nose and drip down the throat. Where possible spit this out as it won't improve your experience but may cause more harm

INJECTING (This route of administration poses the highest risk.)

- Only use clean needles and supplies. Free, clean needles are available from needle exchange services. Alternatively they can be bought online
- Use the smallest needle you can without it becoming blocked
- Follow good hygiene practice and wash injection sites (before and after)
- Always filter your drugs
- Use a fresh needle if you fail to find a vein first time; needles become blunt after one use
- Never share equipment (including needles, filters, containers, spoons and water)
- Do not use citric acid or heat to dissolve substances if it is not needed. For most drugs (apart from heroin) this is unnecessary and it may cause greater harm to injection sites
- Rotate injection sites
- Dispose of needles responsibly. These can be returned to a needle exchange
- Seek medical assistance if site becomes painful, tender or hot, or there is swelling for more than a few days


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