Using Drugs Safely
Using drugs safely doesn’t just mean using a clean needle. If you drink alcohol, smoke a joint, inject steroids or cocaine, inhale mescaline, or swallow ecstasy, then you could be putting yourself at risk for HIV and Hepatitis.
Using drugs safely means:
• Taking care of yourself;
• Using drugs in a safe environment;
• Having control over your own body and drug use;
• Having access to new and clean equipment or kits;
• Respecting your limits;
• Knowing exactly what you’re taking.
Drugs may be illegal, but you still have the right to control your body and what goes into it. You also have the right to respect yourself, to take care of your mind, body, and emotions, and to use drugs in a place and with people who make you feel safe.
The drugs themselves, staying up all night, waiting in line-ups outside in the cold, and using energy to dance all stress your immune system. This makes you more vulnerable to catching colds and flus, especially if you’re kissing and sharing water bottles. Drink lots of water and juice, take your vitamins, and get lots of sleep the next day.
There are many drugs that can make you feel depressed once you’ve come down. Regrets? Memory loss? Use the next day to relax and take care of yourself. Don’t try to resolve problems until you’re feeling 100%.
How can my drug use put me at risk for getting Hepatitis and HIV?
1. Drugs impair your judgment.
The decisions you make while you’re high or drunk might not be the same decisions you would make sober. For example, many people only have unsafe sex while they’re drunk or high. How can you avoid that? Always keep your condoms close to you. Bring them to the bar/club/sauna/rave. Put them on your bedside table, or if you want to be discreet, under your pillow. Make your decisions about safer sex when you’re sober and make yourself stick to them.
Some people also try drugs they’ve never used before on the spur of the moment. How well do you know the people you’re partying with? Do you know what you’re taking? Do you know how it will make you feel and act? Do you know what the side effects could be? What can’t work in combination? Do your research before you make the decision.
2. Drugs that you sniff, smoke, and inject put you at direct risk for infections.
Inhaling drugs (sniffing, snorting, doing lines or bumps)
The straws and rolled bills used to sniff drugs can also transmit HIV and Hepatitis B and C. Small blood vessels in the nose often become irritated and burst. Since blood can stay on the straw or bill, when you put someone else’s in your nose, you are exposing yourself to their blood. Keep in mind that you don’t actually have to see the blood for it to be there. Use your own straw or bill when you sniff.
Injection drugs (shooting up)
The works used to shoot up can easily transmit HIV and Hepatitis B and C from one person to another. The needle that enters the vein and the body of the syringe both contain blood once they’ve been used, and the cooking spoon and the straining cotton can come in contact with blood during a wash. It doesn’t matter what’s in the syringe when you shoot up. HIV and Hepatitis don’t discriminate between people who inject insulin, steroids, vitamins, heroin, or cocaine. If you share your works, you’re putting yourself at risk.
Intravenous drug users are 44 times more likely to contract HIV than those who don’t, and an average of 15% of all HIV infections are through IDU. Sharing needles is by far the most common way for Hepatitis C to be transmitted. But by using clean needles or cleaning your works you can diminish this risk greatly.
Ideally, new works should be used every time.
In Montreal, these can be found for free at certain CLSCs and organizations such as Stella, CACTUS, Pact de rue, Spectre de rue, and Pré-Fix. For more information, you can call Drug: Help and Referrals 24 hours a day at (514) 527-2626. You can also contact us Monday to Thursday, 10:00 to 18:00.
If you can’t get a new set, cleaning your needles is far better than sharing unclean ones.
How can you clean your works?
Step 1: Fill syringe with water.
Step 2: Shake it up to rinse it. Tap it to get out air bubbles.
Step 3: Shoot the water out. Dump out this water. Repeat steps 2 and three until you can’t see any blood.
Step 4: Pour some bleach into a glass. Stick the needle in the bleach and draw the bleach through the syringe up to the top. Leave the needle in the glass of bleach and wait 30 seconds.
Step 5: Shoot the bleach back into the glass. Dump out this glass of bleach so you won’t reuse it.
Step 6: Fill the syringe again with new water, shoot it out and repeat at least 3 times to make sure you rinse all the bleach out. Shooting bleach into your veins would suck.
If you’re worried you’ll be too high to clean up between uses, suggest a ‘designated cleaner’ who will shoot up last.