Harm reduction

Below are some tips to reduce harm from alcohol and other drugs. For harm reduction advice about specific drugs please visit the individual drug information pages.

  • Spend at least 2 hours researching a drug you plan to take
  • Plan how you are getting home before you start your night
  • Avoid taking drugs alone and have a ‘straight/sober’ friend around if possible
  • Tell someone what you have taken, how much and when
  • Try not to accept/buy drugs from people you don’t know
  • Avoid mixing with other drugs, including alcohol
  • If using for the first time or using a new batch/packet take a test dose first
  • Access drug analysis also known as drug testing or “drug checking” where possible
  • Home testing kits are available online and can give a basic understanding of what the drugs contain but they may not be effective enough to identify newer compounds or adulterants and can tell you nothing about purity or strength
  • Use scales to measure dose
  • Start by taking small amounts – this might be quarter of a pill, one small line or dab, a few puffs of a joint or vape
  • Pace yourself and wait two hours before taking any more
  • Keep hydrated, drink small sips of water (about 1/2-1 pint per hour)
  • If experiencing issues with jaw clenching, chew gum or soft sweets
  • Magnesium supplements can help reduce jaw clenching
  • Take regular breaks when dancing
  • Use safe sex practices
  • If you start to feel unwell, tell someone and be honest about what has been taken
  • If the effects feel stronger than expected try to relax and take small sips of flat sugary juice
  • Negative feelings will pass, changing the environment and letting someone know how you are feeling can help
  • If the person taking drugs is sleeping or unconscious place them in the recovery position (on their side) and check them frequently to ensure they are okay
  • Try to have a few drink/drug free days a week to allow your body to recover
  • Get regular health check-ups and tests for blood borne viruses (e.g. hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV)

In addition the following harm reduction advice can be used when using certain routes of administration:


  • If using rolling papers use as little paper as possible
  • Clean all pipes/bongs regularly
  • try to use unprinted card for roaches so you don’t inhale ink chemicals. Using a carbon filter or a normal cigarette filter won’t affect high but does block the effects of tobacco more effectively. Better yet – ditch tobacco!
  • Avoid holding smoke in your lungs as this can damage tissue without giving a better ‘hit’
  • Use glass or metal pipes where possible as these give off less fumes than wood and plastic
  • If smoking from foil use clean foil each time. Foil is available from needle exchanges


  • Grind substances into as fine a powder as possible before snorting
  • Use a straw as a ‘tooter/snorter’ rather than money and throw away after use
  • Position the ‘tooter/snorter’ as high up the nostril as possible
  • Don’t share your ‘tooter/snorter’ with anyone else (this could spread viruses)
  • Use a different nostril each time
  • Rinse out your nose with clean water afterwards.


(This route of administration poses the highest risk.)

  • Only use clean needles and supplies. Free, clean needles are available from needle exchange services. Alternatively they can be bought online
  • Use the smallest needle you can without it becoming blocked
  • Follow good hygiene practice and wash injection sites (before and after)
  • Always filter your drugs
  • Use a fresh needle if you fail to find a vein first time; needles become blunt after one use
  • Never share equipment (including needles, filters, containers, spoons and water)
  • Do not use citric acid or heat to dissolve substances if it is not needed. For most drugs (apart from heroin) this is unnecessary and it may cause greater harm to injection sites
  • Rotate injection sites
  • Dispose of needles responsibly. These can be returned to a needle exchange
  • Seek medical assistance if site becomes painful, tender or hot, or there is swelling for more than a few days