Dummies Guide To Harm Reduction For Those Who Are Addicted To Drugs And Alcohol


What Is Harm Reduction & How Does It Effect Me?

Harm reduction refers to a broad range of policies and practices that try to reduce the physical, mental and societal harms that people do to themselves and/or others from their drug and alcohol use.

It can be contrasted with primary prevention which tries to prevent people using drugs in the first place or to stop them using once they’ve started.

Attempting to overcome the unique set of challenges that drug and alcohol addiction provide for its users or drinkers require a holistic approach rather than a single part or method of recovery. These include harm reduction initiatives.


History Of Harm Reduction

Harm reduction first became a widely used term in the UK in the 1980s in response to the increasing number of cases of HIV among those who inject drugs and the development of syringe/injecting equipment exchange schemes. Since then it has been developed in a number of ways including ‘Safer Dancing’ and drug and alcohol testing.

Harm reduction focuses on “safer” drug use and has also been developed as a way of educating young people about drug use rather than telling them to ‘Just Say No’.

There have been arguments over the morality of harm reduction. Some people say that it condones or promotes drug use but people who support it say it is realistic, helps keep drug users safe and respects individual choices and freedoms. See the Position Statement from Harm Reduction International for more on this.

People around the world will continue to inject, no matter whether it is legal or illegal or whether it has a negative impact on their health, so these initiatives provide clean, sterile, single use injecting equipment along with “best practice” tips and suggestions to reduce the risk of acquiring or transmitting any blood borne diseases or other complications associated with injecting if people choose to continue to inject.

Dave – Founder – Drink ‘n’ Drugs

Harm Reduction Initiatives

There are a wide range of different harm reduction initiatives in place. These include:

  • Needle Exchange Schemes – They provide clean and sterile needles for people who inject drugs, thereby reducing the transmission of blood borne diseases such as hepatitis and HIV and enabling the safe disposal of syringes.
  • Drug Consumption RoomsThese provide places where illicit drugs can be taken (injected) under the supervision of trained staff, thereby reducing the chances of overdose, disease transmission and drug related litter.
  • Drug Testing In ClubsThe Loop conducts forensic testing of drugs at UK festivals and nightclubs and provides associated welfare support. However in modern times, this is slowly becoming less common.
  • Providing Information On Safer Drug Use – see the guidelines below.

Harm Reduction Guidelines/Best Practice

  • If you are going to use drugs of any description and by any type of administration, but more so for injecting, do not use alone and always tell someone else what it is you have taken and where you are or will be when using them.
  • Always use, sterile, single use needles, syringes, spoons, alcohol wipes and others.
  • Do not share injecting equipment with anyone else.
  • Begin by using a small amount e.g. a quarter of a pill and wait a couple of hours before taking anymore.
  • You can also Crush, Dab And Wait – i.e. crush up any pills, dab in a wet finger to taste and then wait an hour or two. This is particular important advice now that ecstasy tablets are being found that are much stronger than they used to be. See more on this here.
  • Don’t mix drugs with other drugs including alcohol or prescription medications. You can find out why below.
  • When dancing, be sure to take breaks to cool down and drink small sips of water but don’t drink more than a pint an hour.
  • Think about your surroundings and do not use in an unsafe, dirty or hazardous location where used injecting equipment could be found by others and unintentionally end up being injured by them, also with the added risks of passing on or catching any blood borne viruses from you or others.
  • Never drive, use machinery or attempt any activities where you or others may be injured, should you do something wrong after taking drugs.
  • Always get help by calling 999 (or your countries emergency number) if you are worried about a friend and give the medical professionals as much information as possible about the alcohol, drug or drugs and that were taken. If possible, including how much was used, what it was, when it was taken, how it was taken, whether alcohol had been drank and precisely where they are at the time.

The Dangerous Risks Of Mixing Cocaine & Alcohol

The effects of mixing cocaine and alcohol are very dangerous and can be extremely dangerous, even potentially life-threatening and fatal!

People who use cocaine often combine it with alcohol. When looking at substance-related emergency department visits, the combination of alcohol and cocaine has been historically common.

cocaine and drinking

Drinking alcohol can also intensify feelings of euphoria due to cocaine use, while simultaneously helping to ease the discomfort of “coming down” from the high.

Unfortunately, users often don’t understand the deadly combination of the two substances and the life-threatening effects it can have.

The combination of both alcohol and cocaine produce a new substance called Cocaethylene.

Effects Of Cocaethylene

The effects of cocaethylene in the liver and bloodstream are more salient in those who use both alcohol and cocaine together on a regular basis; however, some of the effects such as sudden heart attacks or impulsive behaviours, may even occur in occasional users who combine the two drugs. It could be compared to being the chemical version of playing Russian roulette as it can be fatal and you cannot know whether it will happen to you today, tomorrow or next year. This is why combining the two should be avoided at all costs.

Some of the effects of the production of cocaethylene include:

  • Increased Toxic Effects: Cocaethylene is significantly more toxic than cocaine alone. Laboratory studies suggest that it may have a toxicity level 30% higher than cocaine. Once the liver begins producing it, the chemical keeps being released in the system and remains in the body up to three times longer than cocaine on its own, resulting in increased potential for accumulative toxic effects. Cocaethylene toxicity has been associated with a number of sudden deaths and cardiovascular events that occur in cocaine users.
  • Increased Risk Of Cardiovascular Rssues: Cocaethylene increases heart rate and blood pressure even more than cocaine does. In addition, it impairs the ability of the heart muscle to contract properly. These issues are believed to increase the risk even further for people using only alcohol or cocaine alone and cause significant cardiovascular issues.
  • Increased Risk For Stroke: Cocaethylene may also result in an increased risk for stroke compared to individuals who only use alcohol or cocaine.
  • Increased Potential For Liver Damage: Because of its significant toxicity, the presence of cocaethylene in the liver will add to the potential to develop liver damage compared to the use of either alcohol or cocaine alone.
  • Greater Perceived Effects Of Both Drugs: Cocaethylene blocks the reuptake of dopamine in the brain, producing greater euphoric effects for both cocaine and alcohol and also increasing the potential that an individual will continue to abuse both drugs.
  • Longer Method Of Action: Cocaethylene has a greater half-life than cocaine; therefore, it is more slowly eliminated than cocaine. This results in potentially more serious effects as it remains in the system longer which can do further, ongoing damage.
  • Increased Alcohol Consumption: A number of studies suggest that the presence of cocaethylene may actually result in increased alcohol consumption. Individuals who use cocaine and alcohol together often binge drink. Chronic binge drinking is associated with a number of issues including liver damage, cardiovascular issues, nerve damage, alcohol poisoning, poor judgment and a quicker development of severe physical and psychological dependence to alcohol.
  • Increased Impulsivity: Cocaethylene’s affinity to increase both dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain increases the risk that an individual will engage in more impulsive behaviors, including potential violence.
  • Potential For Death: The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has suggested that alcohol and cocaine may be the most common two-drug combination that results in fatalities.

Alcohol can also increase the desire to use cocaine, with one study finding that alcohol use increases cravings in current users and may be associated with increased relapse rates in those trying to quit.

Other harmful effects of mixing alcohol and cocaine can include:

  • The risk of cocaine overdose can be increased by mixing it with alcohol.
  • Stroke.
  • Intracranial hemorrhage (bleeding in the brain).
  • Heart attack.
  • Chronic cardiac toxicity.
  • Cardiac arrhythmia.

Does Harm Reduction Encourage Drug Use?

A common misconception about harm reduction is that it condones or encourages drug use, which simply isn’t true.

Many advocates of harm reduction also support the goal of people working towards abstinence from alcohol, drugs and addictive behaviours, but recognise that for many people, this process takes time. They didn’t become addicts with addictive behaviours overnight and to change these hardwired habits, behaviours and thinking patterns will too take time.

In the interim period, while the person is still drinking, using drugs or engaging in other addictive behaviours, both they and the people around them are vulnerable to harm and this is where harm reduction initiatives come into play.

However, many countries around the world are still adopting old “punishment style” policies to deal with addicts rather than treatment based models.

We have known for quite a few years now that addiction is a health condition, just as heart disease or diabetes is, yet countries are still dealing with drug use through the criminal justice system instead of the care, compassion and treatment pathways that we know is most appropriate to help those who are addicted to drugs to turn their life around and become functioning, contributing members of society, rather than an extra expense that they would otherwise cause if they were in prison.


Alcohol/Drugs & Driving Laws

While it is well known that even small amounts of alcohol can affect people’s ability to drive safely, driving and driving laws allow drivers to have a small amount of alcohol in their bloodstream. The focus is not on eliminating alcohol use from drivers completely but setting a limit over which the greatest risk of causing a serious accident is defined.

We briefly discuss the drink/drug driving laws below, however if you want to find out more or about the UK classification of drugs, you can do so by clicking here to read our previous article on this very topic.

Drinking and driving laws do not encourage drinking; they actually discourage it. But they accept the reality that many people will drink to some extent before driving and that the overall harm to society is lessened by focusing attention on the worst offenders.

Drugs & Driving: The UK Law

Drug driving tests have been introduced in the UK for some time now. We have included this within this harm reduction article as it is a form of harm reduction and protection for others from any harms you may present on the UK’s roads.

It’s illegal in the UK to drive if either:

  • You’re unfit to do so because you’re on legal or illegal drugs.
  • You have certain levels of illegal drugs in your blood (even if they have not affected your driving).

Legal drugs are prescription or over-the-counter medicines. If you’re taking them and not sure if you should drive, talk to your doctor, pharmacist or healthcare professional.

The police can stop you and make you do a ‘field impairment assessment’ if they think you’re on drugs. This is a series of tests, for example asking you to walk in a straight line. They can also use a roadside drug kit to screen for cannabis and cocaine.

If they think you’re unfit to drive because of taking drugs, you’ll be arrested and will have to take a blood or urine test at a police station.

You could be charged with a crime if the test shows you’ve taken drugs.

Prescription Medicines

It’s illegal in England, Scotland and Wales to drive with legal drugs in your body if it impairs your driving.

It’s an offence to drive if you have over the specified limits of certain drugs in your blood and you have not been prescribed them.

Talk to your doctor about whether you should drive if you’ve been prescribed any of the following drugs:

  • Amphetamine, for example dexamphetamine or selegiline
  • Clonazepam
  • Diazepam
  • Flunitrazepam
  • Lorazepam
  • Methadone
  • Morphine or opiate and opioid-based drugs, for example codeine, tramadol or fentanyl
  • Oxazepam
  • Temazepam

You can drive after taking these drugs if:

  • You’ve been prescribed them and followed advice on how to take them by a healthcare professional
  • They are not causing you to be unfit to drive even if you’re above the specified limits

You could be prosecuted if you drive with certain levels of these drugs in your body and you have not been prescribed them.

The law does not cover Northern Ireland but you could still be arrested if you’re unfit to drive.

Penalties For Drug Driving

If you’re convicted of drug driving you’ll get:

  • A minimum 1 year driving ban
  • An unlimited fine
  • Up to 6 months in prison
  • A criminal record

Your driving licence will also show you’ve been convicted for drug driving. This will last for 11 years.

The penalty for causing death by dangerous driving under the influence of drugs is a prison sentence of up to 14 years.

Other Problems You May Face

A conviction for drug driving also means:

  • Your car insurance costs will increase significantly
  • If you drive for work, your employer will see your conviction on your licence
  • You may have trouble travelling to countries like the USA

Knowing How Much You Drink

Knowing how much you drink means that you can better control the amount you drink so that you know whether you are drinking more, less or staying the same.

The best way to measure this is by knowing how many units you drink.

The idea of counting alcohol units was first introduced in the UK in 1987 to help people keep track of their drinking. 

Units are a simple way of expressing the quantity of pure alcohol in a drink. 

One unit equals 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol, which is around the amount of alcohol the average adult can process in an hour. 

This means that within an hour there should be, in theory, little or no alcohol left in the blood of an adult, although this will vary from person to person.

The number of units in a drink is based on the size of the drink, as well as its alcohol strength. 

For example, a pint of strong lager contains 3 units of alcohol, whereas the same volume of low-strength lager has just over 2 units. 

Knowing your units will help you stay in control of your drinking. 

To keep health risks from alcohol to a low level if you drink most weeks:

  • Men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis
  • Spread your drinking over 3 or more days if you regularly drink as much as 14 units a week
  • If you want to cut down, try to have several drink-free days each week

Fourteen units is equivalent to 6 pints of average-strength beer or 10 small glasses of low-strength wine.

We appreciate that those with addictions to alcohol will be drinking above the recommended limits but it gives you a rough idea of where your drinking is in comparison to the UK’s Government’s recommended limits and where the law stands should you consider driving whilst intoxicated.

Calculating Your Units

Using units is a simpler way of representing a drink’s alcohol content – usually expressed by the standard measure alcohol by volume (ABV). 

ABV is a measure of the amount of pure alcohol as a percentage of the total volume of liquid in a drink.

You can find the ABV on the labels of cans and bottles, sometimes written as “vol” or “alcohol volume”, or you can ask bar staff about particular drinks. 

For example, wine that says “12% ABV” or “alcohol volume 12%” means 12% of the volume of that drink is pure alcohol.

You can work out how many units there are in any drink by multiplying the total volume of a drink (in ml) by its ABV (measured as a percentage) and dividing the result by 1,000.

  • Strength (ABV) x volume (ml) ÷ 1,000 = units

For example, to work out the number of units in a pint (568ml) of strong lager (ABV 5.2%):

  • 5.2 (%) x 568 (ml) ÷ 1,000 = 2.95 units 

For a quicker method, use Alcohol Change UK’s unit calculator.


Needle Exchange Services (NES)

Injecting drugs such as heroin is illegal, yet harm reduction advocates for clean needles to be provided to drug users free of charge. This is because there is more harm caused to individual drug users, the health care system and society as a whole if injecting drug users pass HIV and Hepatitis C to each other through sharing needles.

They also provide a place where special sharps bins for the safe disposal of used “sharps” can be disposed of to eliminate the risk of someone else accidentally being stuck by a used, dirty needle. They can also be given new bins to dispose of their next batch of used needles once they’ve disposed of their old, full bins so that they can be dealt with safely by allowing them to be incinerated by specially trained organisations.

Addicts will attend NES services weekly, if not more often depending on their using habits, so having this “revolving door” system where new, sterile, single use needles and injecting equipment can be obtained and old used equipment can be safely disposed of. This is why it plays a large part within the range of harm reduction initiatives that exist for addicts who inject.

In the UK, needle exchange programs often use the logo below to show that the pharmacy, doctors surgery, drug and alcohol service or organisation offer a needle exchange program so keep an eye out if you see this sign around your community.

Needle exchange programs do not encourage drug use. In fact, they are usually the first point of contact for drug users to access addiction treatment services or gain information for local fellowship meetings and other local opportunities for help with their drug and alcohol use.

These programs accept the fact that many people will inject drugs whether they have clean needles or not, so the preferential option is that they do not get ill and die as a result of infection transmission from dirty, used sharps or acquire infections or biological damage that can occur when clean equipment and best practice advice aren’t followed.


England Needle Exchange Programs/Initiatives

There are many needle exchange programs in the United Kingdom, many of which can be found in places including pharmacies, community drug and alcohol services, certain charities, community groups, organisations and specialist NHS health services.

The easiest way to find your nearest needle exchange program is to ask at your local pharmacy (which may actually have one), ask your doctors surgery, look up your local drug and alcohol service online or by visiting our help and support page here.

You can also call the NHS 111 helpline for free, confidential information on local services, self-help resources and referrals for more specialist help by dialing 111 for free 24/7 or online here.


Ireland’s NES Programs

Drugs.ie has a list of needle and syringe exchanges in Ireland. You can also contact your local pharmacy to see if they offer a needle exchange program. You can find out more about the opportunities and services that are available near you in Ireland by clicking here.


Scotland’s NES Programs

The Scottish needle exchange directory is available online and provides contact information for NES programs across Scotland. You can visit the Scottish Needle Exchange Directory by clicking here.


Safe Injection Facilities

Safe injection sites go a step further than needle exchange services by providing a safe, clean and supervised space in which people can inject drugs and access the following benefits:

  • Acquire new, sterile needles and injecting equipment.
  • Dispose of dirty, used needles and injecting equipment.
  • Access help, support and treatment options.
  • See healthcare/community professionals for things such as wound care, mental health, health conditions, housing, food banks and more.
  • Access MAT programs (see below for more information).
  • Access to Naloxone kits and training

Healthcare professionals supervise the injection process to prevent overdoses, should one occur. safe injection rooms offer a safe space and immediate help if an overdose occurs.

To date (of writing this article), no one has ever died from an overdose whilst using a safe injecting space. This is reflected by the hundreds of thousands of lives lost worldwide each year who die from unnecessary overdoses outside or alone which could have been prevented.

Safe injection facilities do not encourage drug use, they provide a connection between the most vulnerable drug users in our communities and treatment services with the ultimate aim of reducing harm whilst the individual continues to use or drink, through detox and rehabilitation and become abstinent or sober to become happier, productive members of our societies. Ultimately harm reduction initiatives and treatment saves lives that would otherwise be lost to drugs or alcohol.


MAT Programs

MAT programs or Medicine Assisted Treatment programs provide medicines that allow addicts to use a safer alternative to drugs which allows them to eliminate the risks associated with street drugs or alcohol, reduce slowly to minimise any withdrawal symptoms and get their lives back together.

These medicines include methadone, buprenorphine, subutex, acamprosate, disulfiram and naltrexone.

You can learn more about MAT programs and the science behind addiction in our previous article here.

Those who use MAT programs tend to start on a daily, supervised consumption plan (depending on which medication is being taken) which means that they have to go into a pharmacy or other place to take their daily dose whilst being supervised.

Once they start giving clean drug tests or meet other criteria, they can then start to take daily amounts home to take unsupervised, this then increases to a few days. It is then increased further to allow a weekly or monthly batch to be taken home and consumed unsupervised.


Naloxone Programs

Narcan programs (medicine name is Naloxone) provides emergency kits to addicts addicted to opioids/opiates such as heroin, morphine, codeine, tramadol and others.

They work by reversing the effects of overdosing on opioids. There are two types of emergency kit, an injectable version and a nasal spray. These kits save many lives each year, yet only 12 countries around the world offer it for opioid addicts or those who are around opioid addicts who are at risk of overdose.

Injectable Version
Nasal Spray Version

In the UK, Naloxone kits are free from your local drug and alcohol service who are able to give you a free kit and training. contact them for more information, if you don’t know where your nearest community drug and alcohol service is, you can find yours on our help and support page here.


Condoms & Sex Workers

Sex can be an addictive behaviour and it can lead to unplanned pregnancy, but the main reason that free condoms are sometimes provided as a harm reduction service is to reduce the transmission of STDs, specifically HIV.

Not only that but many people involved in sex work (prostitution) have a drug or alcohol addiction of some description, so protecting the worker and their clients also play a part in the holistic group of harm reduction initiatives.

Condom Programs Promote Safe Sex

Free condoms are not distributed to encourage people to have sex. Programs that distribute them recognise that people have unprotected sex for many different reasons and that factors such as embarrassment and poverty may get in the way of purchasing condoms. By providing free condoms, these services help prevent a lot of illnesses and problems associated with unprotected sex.

For centuries, sex has been sold as a commodity to customers wishing to purchase sex as a product/service. In modern times, the majority of sex workers have a drug and/or alcohol addiction to a greater or lesser degree.

Harm Reduction International have produced a document looking at this crossover and what can be done to reduce the harms associated with sex work and addiction. You can read it by clicking here or visiting our downloads and media page here.

You can also find help and support from various charities, groups and organisations for those involved in sex work on our help and support page here.


Harm Reduction During COVID-19

We are all having to make sacrifices during this extremely stressful time we all find ourselves in as a result of COVID-19, but finding small tips and making small changes can make a big difference for you and others.


Diet & Nutrition

Diet and nutrition is one area that addicts neglect when it comes to substances, but it’s something that should be taken seriously if you want your body to look after you and bounce back from the constant toll chronic drug and alcohol use places on our bodies. You don’t have to eat all free range, organic, expensive foods but having a balanced diet which includes fruits and vegetables is key.

Our Top Tips For Reducing Harm When Using Drugs Or Drinking Alcohol

  • Buy less so you use less – Buying large amounts of a drug or bottles/cans of alcohol may be cheaper, but you could end up using or drinking more than you want to simply because it’s there. If you limit yourself to your chosen allotted amount, you’re more likely to stick to it.
  • Set a time limit before you start – If you choose, say, to stop drinking at 10:00 pm, watch the time, remind yourself of your time plan and stick to it. Have some juice ready or an activity you enjoy to do so that you don’t focus on the fact that you’ve now stopped for the rest of the day/night.
  • Eat a meal before you start drinking – Avoid snacking on salty foods, especially if you’re drinking. You may drink more out of thirst. Eating some food will also help you to better cope with the volume of alcohol that you’ll be drinking. Having a balanced diet is also important to keep your body healthy and functioning properly.
  • Lower your dosage/amount and frequency – In other words, drink, smoke or inject in ever increasing smaller amounts and less often than you do now. When it comes to alcohol, this could mean choosing light beer or other low-alcohol drinks or alternating drinks with water or fizzy soft drink.
  • Choose the least harmful method of use – Injecting a drug carries more risks than smoking, snorting or swallowing it. (If you do inject drugs, avoid the neck, groin or other high risk areas.) When it comes to cannabis, using a vaporiser or smoking a joint (with a rolled up cardboard filter) is safer than using a bong and some pipes. If you normally snowball (inject heroin and crack cocaine), smoke both separately instead of injecting them together.
  • Plan out some drug/alcohol-free days – The fewer days in a row you use a drug or drink, the better. If you use drugs or alcohol every day, try cutting back your use to every other day, then try not using it at all for two to three days. Slowly reducing the amount you use or drink will lower your risks. This will be even easier if you are on a MAT program as you won’t experience any withdrawal symptoms like you might if you were just reducing alone. However, doing it this way is still possible and is done by millions every single day around the world! Make sure you have other ways to spend your time and energy so you don’t end up sitting around and thinking about what you’re loosing out on. Try thinking about it as you are gaining a happier, stress stressful and risky life, rather than thinking about the fact that you are using/drinking less than you did yesterday or last week.
  • Use/drink at your own speed – Don’t feel pressured from others to pick up the pace, use more than you want to or use in a way that you don’t want to, for example, just because others around you may be injecting, doesn’t mean that you have to!
  • Find someone caring and understanding – to talk to when you’re struggling to stick to your reduced using/drinking plan. This may be your sponsor (if you have one. If you don’t, you can get one by attending fellowship meetings and after a short period of time, as you get to know others, you can ask them if they’d be your sponsor or someone may ask you). This person can also be called upon if you are having any cravings or temptations to drink/use. Call them and talk about how you’re feeling before you use or drink.
  • Read self-help books, blogs or websites – That feature stories about people who have successfully cut down on drinking or quit using a drug. You can also. Find tips, tricks, hacks and techniques you can use when times get tough or to make your recovery easier to manage and achieve.
  • Put condoms in your pocket – Before you start using a drug or drinking, even if you’re not planning to have sex. You might change your mind. If you are a sex worker and rely on this type of work to earn money, try and do it as safely as possible, using a condom is one aspect of this.
  • Create your own recovery toolkit – having a knowledge base filled with techniques, knowledge and tips to help you throughout your recovery will make things easier and more likely to maintain long lasting recovery.
  • Change your phone number and block your old using/drinking contacts – The less peer-pressure or temptations you’re presented with will make things a little easier. By changing your phone number and blocking others on social media will make this aspect of recovery easier to cope with.
  • Learn to say no in different ways – Being able to say no or refuse offers without feeling embarrassed or awkward is a skill we all need to learn. You can find 60 ways to say no in our previous article here.
  • Replace one bad habit with two new good ones – For example, if you would normally use as soon as you wake up, trying having a shower and going for a short walk before you have your first hit or if you usually drink at a set time each day, try walking your dog first and then speak to your sponsor to discuss the day ahead. This will not only help with your social skills but will also reduce stress, which will hopefully reduce the amount you drink by eliminating some of the daily stress.
  • Never drink or use alone – If you use or drink alone and something were to happen to you like overdosing, no one will be able to call an ambulance, administer Naloxone (if you’ve overdosed on opioids) to reverse the overdose or help should something go wrong.
  • Never share drugs or injecting equipment – This will prevent the transmutation of blood borne viruses such as Hep C and HIV.
  • If you normally drink high strength cider or other alcohol – Try drinking a lower strength alcohol or reduce the volume of alcohol you drink.
  • Learn what your triggers – This will mean you are tempted to use or drink less often, caused by temptations, triggered by places, people, locations, shops where you would previously use or drink.
  • Try mindfulness and other associated coping strategies – Using coping strategies such as mindfulness, meditation, relaxation, urge surfing and others will help to reduce your anxiety, prepare you for the day/night ahead, reduce any withdrawal symptoms and minimise the amount of time you spend stressed, angry, upset or scared. You can find out how to do some of the above strategies by clicking here.
  • Give your money to someone else you trust – If you normally use or drink when you get paid or receive money, give your bank card or money to someone else you trust so that you cannot spend all of your money or more than your allotted amount of money on drugs or alcohol.
  • Limit or reduce the amount of units you drink within a set period – Set yourself a limit or plan a slow reduction of the amount of units you drink within a set period. If you don’t know how many units you drink, you can buy special unit measuring cups online or by using a free online unit calculator.
  • Use the smallest needle possible and never re-use the same needle twice – This will reduce the damage done to your veins and surrounding tissue and help reduce your risk of developing an infection, ulcer or abscess.
  • Try your drugs first – If you have a new amount of drugs, got more from a new dealer or your regular dealer getting a new batch in, make sure you try a tiny amount first as you can’t tell how strong it’ll be, or what other substances might be in it, such as fentanyl just by looking at it.
  • Always look after your body – It may sound simple, but it’s vital that you address any physical or mental health problems that arise as soon as they occur. 99% of addiction related injuries and illnesses are preventable or manageable if you treat it straight away, get professional help where needed and look after your body and mind.

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Published by Drink ’n’ Drugs

Providing useful, relevant, up to date information and support for those suffering from active addiction or those who are in recovery.

6 thoughts on “Dummies Guide To Harm Reduction For Those Who Are Addicted To Drugs And Alcohol

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