Throughout my blogs, I’ve often spoken about harm reduction and harm minimisation. The underlying thread of what I write about is about minimizing the risks and the dangers of using drugs. I write about the best ways to stay safe using a substance, because, let’s be honest, that shit can cause you physical or mental harm, could put you in prison and ultimately take your life. Importantly, it’s not only you that it can cause harm to.
What you’re doing, getting wasted and high can also impact your family, friends, loved ones and the wider society. It impacts emergency services, increases demands on A&E and impacts the general public.
Harm minimisation is ultimately keeping you and everyone around you safe from your use. That sounds a bit harsh, doesn’t it? It’s the truth. Your drug use impacts everyone around you and everyone in your circle: we call this ripple effect.
Today I want to talk about how to both inject and sniff safer, but first, let’s talk about blood-borne viruses (BBVS)
“But I don’t inject drugs. I only sniff coke?”
Believe it or not, blood-borne viruses (such as HIV, HEP C, and HEP A) are not just something that you can get from injecting drugs. You can get them from sharing your crack pipe, your heroin tooter, the straw or notes for snorting your coke. Risks and dangers can come from anywhere there might be exposed to even small amounts of blood. Taking drugs is a risky business!
The majority of illicit drugs can be injected: they can be cooked up, washed, and cleaned so you can inject them straight into the body. Injecting gives that instant hit, that high, and is the most dangerous way to take any drug. Why? Because once that shit is in your body, it’s not coming out again. There is no stopping that feeling when you’re going higher and higher, you can’t get off this ride once you’ve banged it into your vein. That’s it, it’s in, and if you can't handle that high, something bad is going to happen. Either you’re lucky and you just have a bad ride, or you are unlucky and go so high that you meet the maker and it's overdose (OD) time!
How do you stay safe when injecting?
Firstly, know how to prepare your drug of choice. Preparing cocaine is completely different to preparing heroin for injecting. The best way to know how to prep it is by being guided by an experienced injector. They will have made the mistakes, got a dirty hit, missed a vein or even hit a nerve or an artery. I can tell you now, hitting a nerve with a fine point needle is going to hurt more than you’ve ever hurt before.
The basics of safer injecting are;
- Use clean injecting equipment at all times
- Wash your hands
- Clean the surfaces around you
- Remove all ashtrays and any rubbish on the surface
- Use clean water, preferably sterile water
- Test the substance first – do a test dose, a small amount first. See how you feel. If its OK, then you are in a safer position to use your gear.
Clean injecting equipment is available from most Drug Services and the majority of Chemists. They are all free, and you don’t even have to give a real name when picking them up. The only reason they may ask is so local authorities have an idea of how supplies are being used so they can ensure that the service is stocked with the equipment that’s needed. They don’t want to trip you up, catch you out or call the police on you, they just want you to be safe.
All services that offer needle exchange (NX) service will display this sign on the door:
Guides like these are readily available on the best way to cook up your drug of choice.
The best harm minimisation advice I can give is to never inject! Let’s be honest though, you will do what you want to do, and it's always better to inject safer than to inject with no knowledge.
How to Sniff Safer
So, you’re not injecting. Do you think sniffing or snorting drugs doesn’t come with any risks or dangers? Come on, you know better than that. Taking any drug comes with risks, and snorting comes with probably one of the greatest risks, the risk of catching a BBV.
Why? Well if you’re all sharing the same straw, the same note if one nose is bleeding from one mate if they have Hepatitis C… Home | Hepatitis C Trust (hepctrust.org.uk) Well, it only takes a microdot of infected blood to get into your body when you shove that up your nose. And if your nose is already battered from last night’s use, and the lining has thinned, you’re probably going to have a little bit of blood coming out too. This is how easy it is to catch Hep C.
The basics of snorting/sniffing drugs
- Always use your own straw/cardboard tube or note. NEVER SHARE
- Chop up your drug as finely as possible on a CLEAN surface
- Douche your nose with clean water after each line
- Use a saline nasal spray to minimise the risk of damage to the nasal lining
But using the drug isn’t the only risk - as I have already said, there is this ripple effect.
Let’s talk about Sex.
You may have just done a line with your mate, shared the same straw and he’s HEP positive. So now it’s a good chance you are too! And then you’re going to get your rocks off and have unprotected or bareback sex with a relative stranger that you’ve just been messaging off one of the many websites. This is where your local drug service or needle exchange comes in handy. They can give you free condoms, free femidoms and even dams. You’ve not got to pay £5.99 for 5 condoms! That could be spent having a good night, right?
These services are free, and they are there to minimise the risks, the harm and the dangers.
As with any substance you use remember this;
- Substance - what are you using
- The setting - do you feel comfortable? Amongst friends? Do you feel safe?
- Self - How are you feeling before you use? If you’re already paranoid then that’s the buzz you’re going to get.
NO drug use is safe.
No matter what substance you’re going to take, make sure you dose up correctly. Know the strength of the substance you’re using. Do a test dose first, just a little, and see how you feel. Don’t rush this, ultimately, you’re playing with your life for that buzz.