Here are six harm reduction tips that may be both helpful in practice and fairly easy to remember.
Before you use, ask yourself if you’re Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired. Many psychologists and social workers as well as drug users themselves, have identified those feelings as the ‘four pillars of relapse’. So, while drug use is a personal choice – It’s important to consider those natural triggers before you proceed. You don’t want to ruin your high with hunger, anger, loneliness or exhaustion anyway.
- Set up a buddy system
Don’t use alone. Overdose continues to be a substantial risk in drug use, so having a friend around can be the difference between life and death. Consider asking someone you trust to check-in or care for you while you’re high. Suggest a routine where the two of you take turns looking out for each other, if they use drugs as well. This way, you’re more likely to use in a safe, controlled environment on a regular basis.
- Know your dealer
In the light of the Opioid Epidemic and its growing reign in Ontario, cross-contamination of fentanyl in Heroin, Cocaine, Oxycontin and Xanax bars has become increasingly common. Having a rapport with your supplier can ensure that you’re kept in the loop about the source and quality of your drugs. Use caution if your dealer has recently changed or if the product you’ve picked up looks different from your usual.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help
People who use drugs are the experts of Harm Reduction. There’s no question about it. Still, the best practice of safer injection and inhalation change overtime and there’s no shame in asking for help. Double-checking in case of drug interactions, for example, does not undermine your expertise. To ask when unsure, is to strive towards an informed, safer tomorrow.
- Share knowledge with others
In the same breath, sharing your experiences helps keep you and your fellow drug users stay safe. If a supply is tainted, spreading the word about what the drug looks like and where it’s being distributed can help a great deal in overdose prevention. Furthermore, agencies are often playing catch up when collecting data and revisiting programs to better serve the needs of the community. From drop-in hours to the contents of crack kits, your valuable feedback helps agencies stay up to date about local drug trends and their respective risks.
- Accept yourself and others for who they are and where they’re at
Just as there is diversity of life, People Who Use Drugs can speak to a wide range of experiences. Where there’s variety, there are differences of opinion, lifestyle, etc… but no matter the drug of choice, people are people. Stigma, as we know it, can manifest in a wide range of behaviors and attitudes. These beliefs, however unfair, are often turned inward for People Who Use Drugs. As the fight against stigma pushes forward, supporting others regardless of differences can foster healing from within. With the myriad of wisdom we have to offer, we should strive to learn from one another in a supportive, dignified manner.
If you are a person who uses drugs or is seeking support for a friend or family member in York Region, you can access ACYR’s harm reduction support services by visiting: https://cayrcc.org/get-support-safe-space/harm-reduction-support-services/
All services are free and confidential
By Kade Wong
Harm Reduction Outreach Worker