COVID-19. Comprehensive Harm Reduction Tips for People who Use Drugs

The following tips were developed to inform the global community of drug users on important harm reduction tips to practice during the current COVID-19 (“coronavirus”) pandemic. 

1) DON’T SHARE pipes, bongs, vapes or joints, nasal tubes (for inhaling/snorting), and all injecting equipment (including sterilized water)

2) If you’ve got the money, try to STOCK UP on your drugs of choice before things deteriorate much further

3) If you are a client of drug substitution programs (ie: methadone maintenance/tapering, heroin, Suboxone/Bup, stimulants, marijuana etc.), and particularly if you have a pre-existing condition that makes you more vulnerable to infection, ask your doctor if you can GET A 3 MONTH TAKE-HOME PRESCRIPTION (meaning you don’t have to go to the pharmacy to get new doses after your first collection). Also, ask if you can skip doctor appointments and urine testing for at least the next three months.

4) If you have an opiate habit and are currently using the illegal drug trade to obtain your drugs, BE PREPARED TO GO THROUGH INVOLUNTARY WITHDRAWAL if your dealer(s) gets sick. Have backup plans that include increasing the number of dealers you can score off of, getting medical help (i.e. drug substitution programs) and make sure you have all the necessary medications, food and drinks (especially protein-based and electrolyte boosting liquids) you will need to detox off opiates (similar steps can be taken by those with habits to other drug types)

5) STOCK UP ON DRUG USING EQUIPMENT/MATERIALS
and get enough to last you at least 3 – 4 weeks (longer if you are high risk for infection and if programs can manage it)

6) WIPE DOWN drug packages/wraps with alcohol-based cleansers after your dealer drops them off or once you’ve picked them up (a minimum 60% alcohol concentration has been shown to effectively kill the virus). If your dealers are in the habit of carrying dope in their mouths ask them if they can change this habit during this outbreak – if they won’t, be careful handling the packages and do the cleaning as advised above. Remember that anti-bacterial washes don’t kill viruses but can be better than nothing, especially if they contain alcohol

7) AVOID PUTTING DRUG BAGS/WRAPS IN YOUR MOUTH, VAGINA OR ANUS. If you must carry it in your body, clean vigorously with an alcohol-based cleanser both before and after you take it out, and if carried in your mouth use an alcohol-based mouthwash afterwards

8) WASH YOUR HANDS with soap and hot water vigorously for at least 20 seconds (but longer if you can) every time you come into contact with others, after handling money and after you get your drugs packages. Paper towels are preferred for drying hands, or at least use a clean towel

9) PREPARE YOUR DRUGS YOURSELF and ensure that you don’t handle or touch other people’s equipment/drugs and don’t let them touch yours

10) If you have symptoms or think you’re getting sick, AVOID GOING TO YOUR LOCAL HR PROGRAMS – HAVE THEM DELIVER TO YOU and tell them you are unwell so they can take the necessary precautions for their safety

11) Be prepared for the POSSIBILITY OF NEEDLE EXCHANGES AND DRUG TREATMENT PROGRAMS CLOSING DOWN (and possibly drug detoxes) and follow steps 2, 3, 4 and 5 to reduce any problems related to running out of supplies or equipment

Remember that people with compromised immune systems, lung diseases and other pre-existing conditions are more at risk of contracting COVID19 and help keep them safe by keeping yourself safe – follow these and other harm reduction tips to help you achieve this goal.

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