photo of pill container and needle with words opioids written on chalkboard in background

This Version Posted: October 15, 2021

Do you use substances or other drugs? Reduce your risk of harm to avoid overdoses and infections. Read on for more information.


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Safety Tips if Using Drugs:
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Extra Precautions During COVID-19
  • If you are feeling sick, do not leave home. Ask a buddy to pick up supplies including naloxone from harm reduction sites or outreach workers. Arrange to have the supplies dropped off at your door, being sure to practise physical distancing 
  • Do not share supplies (cigarettes, joints, pipes, injecting equipment, containers for alcohol, utensils, and other supplies). Use your own mouthpiece and keep it only for YOUR use
  • Avoid handshakes, hugs, kisses, and other close contact
  • Wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer before preparing, handling, or using drugs. Prepare your own drugs
  • If you cannot wash your hands with soap or use hand sanitizer, use alcohol-based hand wipes
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow or use tissues. Throw tissues away immediately and wash your hands
  • It’s strongly recommended you clean surfaces with soap and water, alcohol wipes, bleach, or hydrogen peroxide before preparing drugs
  • If you share a washroom with others, clean and disinfect surfaces like knobs, taps, and flushers. Use soap and water, bleach, hydrogen peroxide or alcohol-based wipes (70%) after every use. Do not mix different types of cleaning solutions
  • Buddy up if using drugs, but be safe! COVID-19 is passed by droplets, so you must stay 2 metres (six feet) – roughly the length of a hockey stick – from your buddy to avoid passing the virus
  • Using with a buddy is safer than using drugs alone, but remember to keep your physical distance! Buddies may be able to bring food, harm reduction supplies, medicine, and substances so that you can stay well. You can also be a buddy to others who need support. Check in on your buddies regularly and have them do the same for you
  • Carry naloxone and have an overdose plan. If necessary, you can perform chest compressions. Do not do rescue breathing due to COVID-19 concerns
  • If you must use drugs by yourself, call a buddy to have him/her regularly check in on you.
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What to Do if You See or Experience a Drug Overdose
  • If you see someone overdosing, call 9-1-1 and give the person naloxone.
  • The Good Samaritan Act offers legal protection for someone to help in an emergency. The Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act protects anyone on scene of an overdose from being charged for possessing/using drugs

If using a naloxone kit, refer to the Five Steps to Respond to an Opioid Overdose sheet. Take these extra precautions too:

  • Stimulate: try and rouse the person, encourage them to take breaths
  • If no response: call 9-1-1, give naloxone and perform chest compressions. DO NOT try doing rescue breathing
  • When using a naloxone kit: put gloves on, but do not use the face shield/breathing barrier for rescue breaths (not advised given COVID-19 situation)
  • After responding, properly remove gloves and throw them in the garbage. Wash/clean hands thoroughly
  • If chest compressions are needed, place a towel or a piece of clothing over the person’s nose and mouth to protect yourself from droplets.
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Why Harm Reduction Works
  • Harm reduction is a term that applies to any program, service or action that reduces the risk of injury and illness. If you have applied sunscreen or buckled up a seatbelt, you’ve embraced harm reduction.
  • When it comes to substance use, harm reduction provides strategies and ideas to reduce the consequences of drug use and other health risks. Harm reduction meets people where they’re at in their substance use and provides programs and services to help them enhance their skills and knowledge to live safer and healthier lives.
  • Harm reduction works! Learn more.
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Additional Resources
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