Safer Drug Use
How Do I Use Drugs More Safely?
A variety of things can make drug use either safer or “riskier”: the type of drug you use, how you use it, the quality of the drug, who you use with, the supplies you use the drugs with, and more.
Being aware of these things can help reduce the harm that drug use causes. Read more about “harm reduction”.
For people who inject, we have a separate section about safer injection.
Check out our overdose prevention services page.
GENERAL GUIDELINES FOR SAFER USE
Start with a lower dosage, and go slowly when you start using. You can always take more later. This is especially important if you haven’t used in awhile.
Test your drugs if possible. You never know what might be mixed in your supply.
Get trained to prevent overdose (and make sure others you use with are trained as well). Keep Narcan (naloxone) with you if you or others around you are using heroin or other opioids.
Use with friend (especially if it’s your first time using a drug). And make sure you’re both trained in overdose prevention.
Find a safe space to use, if possible.
Use sterile supplies including new needles and other supplies.
Don’t mix your drugs. Mixing things like opioids, benzodiazepines or other downers with alcohol can be dangerous.
Eat before you use, and drink water, juice or other liquids. Check out our nutrition info for people who use.
If you like to have sex during or after you use, plan for safer sex. Consider PrEP. PrEP is an effective way to prevent HIV infection, in addition to condoms and other safer sex supplies.
SAFER CRYSTAL METH & SPEED USE
Meth can be used in several ways. It can be smoked or crushed into a powder and snorted. People also dissolve the crystals or powder to swallow, inject or booty bump. Read more about crystal meth & speed and find resources for safer use on Tweaker.org.
SAFER COCAINE & CRACK USE
If you smoke, don’t share pipes, and prevent burns by wrapping the end of the pipe with tape or using a rubber holder. Use a wire screen or brillo as a filter to prevent inhaling hot particles. Let the pipe cool down between hits, and see a health care provider if you feel like your breathing is painful after using.
If you snort, avoid sharing snorting straws since this can result in infections being transmitted from one person to another.
Benzodiazepines (like Valium) are sedatives or depressants. They are dangerous to mix with other depressants like alcohol, heroin or GHB because they can cause overdose.
To reduce the harm caused by alcohol use, know your limits and set an expectation for how much you’ll drink before you go out or begin your night. Sip bottled beer and wine rather than mixed drinks, which can come with heavy pours. Remember to drink water throughout the night, which will slow down how quickly you drink and also prevent a hangover. If you’re interested in getting support for changing how you drink, check out Cheers Queers or drop-in to the Smart Drinking group for gay, bi and queer men.
Avoid taking MDMA with other drugs that can increase your heart rate or blood pressure, such as meth or cocaine, or sedatives including alcohol and opioids. People who have pre-existing heart conditions including high blood pressure or heart disease should also avoid MDMA. Drink up to two glasses of water every hour if you’re dancing in a hot environment. Avoid over-hydrating, which can cause a serious medical emergency.
OPIOIDS & HEROIN
If you use heroin, fentanyl or other opiates, reduce your risk of overdose by starting slowly–you can always take more. Make sure to use less if you’re in a new environment or if it’s been a few days since you’ve last used. Carry Narcan (naloxone) and use with people who have access to Narcan also. Find more services and information for safer opioid use.
CANNABIS & OTHER DRUGS
For tips on how to reduce anxiety with cannabis and ways to reduce the harm with other drugs not covered here, head to RollSafe.org.
Syringe access & safer drug use
We provide safer drug use supplies to people who inject or use other substances in order to prevent the transmission of HIV, hepatitis C and other infectious diseases.
Drug & alcohol counseling
We provide non-judgmental, harm reduction-based drug and alcohol counseling and drop-in services for people interested in addressing their substance use. Treatment is a partnership, individually tailored to address each participant’s goals and needs wherever they are in their experience with alcohol and drugs.
Prevent Overdose Fatalities
Opioid overdoses are the leading cause of death in the United States. But you can change that stark statistic with the right training and supplies,. In collaboration with the D.O.P.E. Project, we offer overdose prevention and response training and supplies like fentanyl test strips and Narcan.