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Harm Reduction and Drug Use

If you're using, here are some tips to help you keep safe.

What is Harm Reduction?

Harm reduction is a set of principles that focuses on reducing the negative consequences of drug use. Harm reduction strategies can range from safer use to managed use and abstinence. Harm reduction calls for non-judgmental and non-coercive services and resources for people who use drugs. Harm reduction recognizes that drug users themselves are the primary agents for reducing the harms associated with their drug use, and strives to empower users to share information and support each other to promote strategies that reduce the harms associated with their drug use.

Safer Injection

So what happens when you find yourself shooting meth? Preparing your hit and making sure that you get the shot off right is critical. But stop for a minute—shooting up is no joke, and you can have some serious consequences if you don't do it right. Bacterial infections and painful abscesses are very common for people who aren't preparing their injection site properly. Also, if you're sharing someone else's needle, cooker, water or cotton, you are putting yourself at risk for HIV. Even if you avoid HIV, Hepatitis C is very prevalent among people who inject drugs and can cause many health problems down the road. If you have Hepatitis C, or want to learn more about it, visit the HCV Advocate site.

Stop and take some time to learn how to reduce some of the negative effects that are common with injection drug use.


Here are a few tips:

Learn where to purchase clean needles. In Minnesota, it's legal to purchase and possess up to 10 clean syringes without a prescription. This is great, but the downside is pharmacists can—and sometimes do—refuse to sell them. To avoid wasting your time and the anxiety that comes with being turned away, try calling the pharmacy in advance. Ask the pharmacist on duty if they will sell a ten pack of syringes without a prescription. You can also check out a map of pharmacies that we know are friendly.

Find out about your local syringe exchange. The Mainline syringe exchange program is a mobile program running out of a converted ambulance that operates on a set site schedule. It parks at the same locations each week and offers sterile syringes, syringe disposal, free rapid HIV and Hepatitis C testing, and can connect people to other services. To get our latest schedule, visit the Mainline website, or call 612.373.2437.

Learn how to properly clean a syringe. If it's an emergency and you don't have a sterile syringe, learn how to clean your works. This isn't nearly as good as using a brand new needle each time, but in an emergency it's important to know how to properly clean a syringe. HIV is an easy virus to kill with bleach, but some other organisms (including Hepatitis C) don't die nearly as easily. Do your best to have a sufficient supply of sterile equipment for you and who ever you are injecting with.

Prepare your injection site. Prior to injecting be sure to wash your hands. Clean the area where you will be injecting with alcohol swabs, and if you don't have alcohol swabs use antibacterial soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Do not fan or blow on the injection site because this can add germs back onto the skin. Let it air dry instead.

Don't inject alone. Have someone you trust nearby each and every time you inject. That way in case something happens, you've got some help nearby.

Remember, it's not just the needle that can transmit disease. Have your own works and never share anything, even tourniquets. Hepatitis C can live on dry surfaces for more then a day and in a syringe for even longer.

If you're shooting meth, don't skin pop or shoot into a muscle—that's a recipe for an abscess, plus it burns and doesn't absorb very well.


For more info on safer injection:
Chicago Recovery Alliance &
Harm Reduction Coalition

Please Remember:
Injecting meth is the most dangerous way to use this drug,
so educate yourself & become a harm reducer.


Crystal Clear MN thanks the Harm Reduction Coalition
for the use of their safer injection materials from their website!