Safer Drug Use Practices
Everyone deserves to be healthy, get the things they need, and take care of themselves whether they use drugs or not. Use this page to help you get started. The following are specific actions that you can take to help you use drugs safer – it includes resources in the community that you can use, as well as general suggestions to prevent overdose and infection. The safety tips below are for opioid and stimulant/uppers use. Click these links for safer use information on alcohol and cannabis
Get the supplies you need to use safely
- You can get new syringes and supplies at a syringe exchange. Some supplies you can get at exchanges include: syringes (varying sizes), cookers, tourniquets, cotton, sterile water, vitamin C powder, fentanyl strips, personal protective equipment like gloves or masks, and other supplies. You can also dispose of your syringes at the exchange and receive personal biohazard containers at many. Click here to search for a syringe exchange in your county.
- Using uppers? Fentanyl is being found in meth, coke, and other uppers across Maine. Make sure you test your drugs fentanyl. See more upper/stimulant safe use tips here.
- Fentanyl test strips are easy to use tests to see if your drugs have been mixed with fentanyl. Learn more about fentanyl test strips and how to use them. Get Fentanyl Test Strips today:
- Maine Access Points (Statewide distribution): Call or text 207-319-8823 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Health Equity Alliance (HEAL) (Penobscot, Hancock, Waldo, Washington): email: email@example.com
- MaineGeneral Harm Reduction (Oxford, Franklin, Somerset, Androscoggin, Sagadahoc, Kennebec, Waldo, Lincoln, and Knox counties): Call 207-872-4102, M-F 8-4:30
- Augusta, Kennebunk, Bath, and Brunswick Police Departments
Not sure who to call? Reach out to your county’s OPTIONS liaison for free and confidential help.
- You can prevent infections by doing basic things before you use drugs, like washing your hands with soap and water, using new supplies, not sharing supplies, and swabbing your skin with alcohol.
- There are things you can do to stay healthy while injecting drugs like using new needles and supplies, rotating injection sites, and using sterile water every time you use drugs. Learn more about how to take care of yourself when injecting drugs.
- There are things you can do to stay healthy while using drugs in other ways, too. Learn more about how to take care of yourself when smoking or snorting drugs.
Use safely to prevent an overdose
- Have someone with you when you are using drugs. Take turns using – that way one of you can call 911 if there is an overdose. If you can’t have someone with you in person, ask a friend to sit with you on the phone in case they need to call for emergency medical help. If you are alone, consider staying in contact with someone who can check in on you periodically, and keep the doors unlocked if you can.
- Start low and slow. Do a little bit first to test the potency, especially if you are using a new batch or getting your drugs from a new source. You can always use more, but you can’t use less once it’s in your body.
- Not all drugs are created equal. Any drug you buy outside of a pharmacy can be more potent or dangerous than you think. Remember to get fentanyl test strips so you can test your supply and get your supply from a trusted source if possible.
- Always carry Naloxone (Narcan). Learn where to get it for free and how to use it.
- Overamping. Although you cannot overdose on stimulants alone, overamping is a concern and is easily prevented. Learn more here.
- See more opioid use safety tips here.
- See more uppers/stimulant safe use tips here.
You can be safer by using just one drug at a time. Even without fentanyl involved, using uppers (e.g. meth or coke) and downers (e.g. opioids) leads to a higher risk of overdose and is not recommended.
Know the signs of overdose, have Naloxone ready
- Learn how to recognize an overdose and how to respond [link to respond to OD]. Always call 9-1-1 for medical help.
- You can learn how to use naloxone to stop an overdose – fentanyl is in many drugs and can make you overdose quickly, so you need to act fast.
- You can always keep naloxone on hand—even when you aren’t using. Naloxone is the only way to stop an opioid overdose. Find out where you can get naloxone.
- Be safe, not sorry. Recognize the signs of a stimulant overdose. If you think your friend is overdosing on uppers (e.g. meth, coke) always administer Naloxone (Narcan). It will save their life. If they are not overdosing there will be little to no affect.
- You can tell people about the Good Samaritan Law, a law that protects you from getting arrested* if you call 911 when someone is overdosing, whether you have drugs on you or not.
You can get tested
- If you inject or snort drugs, get tested at least once a year for HIV and hepatitis C. Most syringe exchanges offer free testing, there are other organizations in Maine that do free testing, and you can get tested if you have a regular doctor or medical provider.
- If you have a wound or abscess that does not get better on its own, it’s time to get medical care.