COVID-19 Harm Reduction Resources for People who Use Drugs
This page is a hub for harm reduction guidance from the community on how to avoid COVID-19 while using, buying and selling drugs. Please share, disseminate, and alter the information here as needed to fit the needs of your community. If you have information which you believe is crucial to share here, especially in multiple languages, please send it to email@example.com.
Comprehensive Harm Reduction Tips for People who Use Drugs
The following guidelines were also comprised by 3D Research when the pandemic first broke out and contain comprehensive advice for all people who use drugs to consider. Thanks to our colleagues over at Talking Drugs and Drug Policy Network South East Europe these tips are also available in the following languages:
French | Spanish | Portuguese | Polish | Italian | Russian | Serbian | Georgian | Romanian
1) DON’T SHARE pipes, bongs, vapes or joints, nasal tubes (for inhaling/snorting), and all injecting equipment (including sterilized water).
2) If you’ve got the money, try to STOCK UP on your drugs of choice before things deteriorate much further.
3) If you are a client of drug substitution programs (ie: methadone maintenance/tapering, heroin, Suboxone/Bup, stimulants, marijuana etc.), and particularly if you have a pre-existing condition that makes you more vulnerable to infection, ask your doctor if you can GET A 3 MONTH TAKE-HOME PRESCRIPTION (meaning you don’t have to go to the pharmacy to get new doses after your first collection). Also, ask if you can skip doctor appointments and urine testing for at least the next three months.
4) If you have an opiate habit and are currently using the illegal drug trade to obtain your drugs, BE PREPARED TO GO THROUGH INVOLUNTARY WITHDRAWAL if your dealer(s) gets sick. Have backup plans that include increasing the number of dealers you can score off of, getting medical help (i.e. drug substitution programs) and make sure you have all the necessary medications, food and drinks (especially protein-based and electrolyte boosting liquids) you will need to detox off opiates (similar steps can be taken by those with habits to other drug types).
5) STOCK UP ON DRUG USING EQUIPMENT/MATERIALS and get enough to last you at least 3 – 4 weeks (longer if you are high risk for infection and if programs can manage it).
6) WIPE DOWN drug packages/wraps with alcohol-based cleansers after your dealer drops them off or once you’ve picked them up (a minimum 60% alcohol concentration has been shown to effectively kill the virus). If your dealers are in the habit of carrying drugs in their mouths ask them if they can change this habit during this outbreak – if they won’t, be careful handling the packages and do the cleaning as advised above. Remember that anti-bacterial washes don’t kill viruses but can be better than nothing, especially if they contain alcohol.
7) AVOID PUTTING DRUG BAGS/WRAPS IN YOUR MOUTH, VAGINA OR ANUS. If you must carry it in your body, clean vigorously with an alcohol-based cleanser both before and after you take it out, and if carried in your mouth use an alcohol-based mouthwash afterwards.
8) WASH YOUR HANDS with soap and hot water vigorously for at least 20 seconds (but longer if you can) every time you come into contact with others, after handling money and after you get your drugs packages. Paper towels are preferred for drying hands, or at least use a clean towel.
9) PREPARE YOUR DRUGS YOURSELF and ensure that you don’t handle or touch other people’s equipment/drugs and don’t let them touch yours.
10) If you have symptoms or think you’re getting sick, AVOID GOING TO YOUR LOCAL HR PROGRAMS – HAVE THEM DELIVER TO YOU and tell them you are unwell so they can take the necessary precautions for their safety.
11) Be prepared for the POSSIBILITY OF NEEDLE EXCHANGES AND DRUG TREATMENT PROGRAMS CLOSING DOWN (and possibly drug detoxes) and follow steps 2, 3, 4 and 5 to reduce any problems related to running out of supplies or equipment.
12) SMOKERS of heroin and other drugs need to be aware that COVID19 infection could make it difficult or painful to inhale smoke or vapour. Drug users should be prepared to find other ways of taking their drugs of choice including eating and snorting it as well as injecting it up the bum with a needleless syringe. If available, opiate users should ensure they have Naloxone and know how to administer it – teach those around you how to as well.
13) Remember that people with compromised immune systems, lung diseases and other pre-existing conditions are more at risk of contracting COVID19 and help keep them safe by keeping yourself safe – follow these and other harm reduction tips to help you achieve this goal.
3D Research have also developed these additional guidelines addressing the specific harm reduction Tips for opiate users/smokers in relation to COVID-19.
In partnership with Russell Newcombe and Cheryl White (of 3D Research: firstname.lastname@example.org), we have developed several resources containing advice for people who use drugs to follow to avoid COVID-19. These four sets of guidelines cover:
Harm Reduction Tips for Drug Users to Avoid COVID-19
Harm Reduction Advice for Heroin/Opioid Users on Avoiding COVID-19
Harm Reduction Tips for Avoiding COVID-19 while Drug Dealing
Harm Reduction Tips for Avoiding COVID-19 when Buying Drugs
We have worked with 3D Research to produce four sets of leaflets containing all of this advice. These resources can be easily printed in color or black & white and are intended to be disseminated amongst peer-led networks and harm reduction service providers.
Customizable Leaflet for People who Use Drugs
In collaboration with the European Network of People who Use Drugs (EuroNPUD) we have developed a leaflet with the most important tips for people who use drugs, which can also be customized to include national or local information on the availability of harm reduction services during the pandemic. Download the leaflet, with translations in 20 languages and counting, from this Dropbox folder.