Harm Reduction – Safety Tips for People Who Use Drugs


Tips for safer use:

  • Don’t share or reuse equipment.
  • If you smoke or snort drugs, avoid sharing pipes or straws.
  • If you inject, always use new equipment: Use a new syringe, rinse water, cooker, cotton and tie, every time.
  • If someone helps you inject, make sure he or she uses a new syringe. Throw away used rinse water and old cottons.

If you must reuse a syringe, follow these steps:

  • Draw cold water into your syringe and shake the barrel. Squirt out the water.
  • Do not reuse this water. Repeat.
  • Draw bleach into your syringe and shake the barrel. Squirt out the bleach. Repeat.
  • Draw new cold water into your syringe and shake the barrel. Squirt out the water.

Prepare drugs carefully:

  • Clean your hands with soap and water or a hand sanitizer.
  • Place any equipment on a clean surface.
  • If you inject: Always use a clean, sterile syringe.
  • Use fresh tap water or sterile water tubes (from a syringe exchange program).
  • Don’t use your needle to poke a hole in your sterile water tube. This can make your needle blunt. A blunt needle can damage your skin and veins.
  • Draw water into your syringe from a clean container.
  • Use a new cooker every time, and avoid touching the inside of the cooker.
  • Drop the cotton directly into the cooker, and then leave it alone. Don’t touch it with your hands! If you share drugs, use one syringe to split the drugs, and a second syringe to inject yourself.

Prevent overdose:

  • Avoid using alone. If you overdose, you want someone around to help.
  • Know your limits. Do a test shot to see how strong the drugs are.
  • If you haven’t used in a while, you are more likely to overdose. Use less than usual.
  • Carry an overdose rescue kit. Kits contain naloxone, a medication that reverses overdoses caused by heroin, prescription painkillers, methadone or other opioids if given in time.
  • Avoid mixing drugs. Most overdoses happen when people mix heroin or painkillers with other drugs like benzos, methadone, anti-depressants or alcohol.

© 2018 COPYRIGHT DOSE OF REALITY NEW MEXICO. NEW MEXICO HUMAN SERVICES DEPARTMENT, BEHAVIORAL HEALTH SERVICES DIVISION, OFFICE OF SUBSTANCE ABUSE PREVENTION (OSAP)