Harm reduction

(for drugs)

This page is provides information about drug-use harm reduction.

Neither the Help Not Harm campaign nor SSY promote drug-use; we promote drug education and harm reduction.

Many drugs can be risky to consume, with harmful consequences often being magnified for the developing minds and bodies of young people. For this reason we pro-actively discourage our young activists and members from engaging in drug-use (incl. alcohol consumption). 

Yet, with the backdrop of Scotland’s drug death crisis, we believe that abstinence-only drug education is dangerous, and the war on drugs must come to an end if lives are to be saved. 


what is harm reduction?

The safest way to take drugs is not to take them at all — but no matter the risks, people will always take drugs.

Harm reduction is a public health approach to drugs that aims to reduce the risks of harm for people who choose to use them.

It comes in different forms. Sometimes harm reduction can be as simple as making information available about different drugs, while in other instances harm reduction can take the form of direct services for drug-users, such as safer drug consumption spaces and drug checking facilities.

general tips

This section dives into some general tips to help keep you safe.

It is never possible to be 100% safe when taking drugs, however these tips will help you minimise potential risks to your health if you or your friends do decide to take drugs anyway.

Know how much you're taking!

Many people do not weigh their drugs before they take them. Street dealers are known for being imprecise with their product, often supplying their customers less (and sometimes more!) than they said they would. 

For harder drugs, the difference of a few milligrams can be the difference of having a good time and taking far too much. Sometimes, this difference can be enough to cause an overdose.

Make sure you are using milligram (mg) scales accurate to 0.001g to portion your drugs. The best pocket-scales come with a calibration weight and can be legally ordered online for cheaper than £20. 

Start low, go slow

It can be very difficult to predict how your body will respond to a drug if you have not taken it before, or in a long time. The best practice for safe consumption in these cases is to start slow with a recommended beginner’s dose and increase in increments.

Be vigilant of harm reduction information to judge your dose effectively. For example: the come-up time of different drugs can vary depending on the method of consumption you use, ranging from 5 minutes to over an hour.

Remember: you can always take more, but you can’t take less.

Only take drugs with people you trust

If you take drugs with people who you do not know or do not trust, it is less likely that they will be able to help you if something goes wrong. If you take a bad trip, you need to be able to confide in the people you are with.

Also, you should only accept drugs from a pal if you know exactly what you’re taking. Even with friends, you need to look after yourself. The way drugs affect you depends on different factors (drug, set and setting) — only you can decide what’s the right amount for you, and you must set your own boundaries.

And while it can be sometimes tempting, never accept drugs from a stranger. 

Test your drugs!

One of the greatest dangers of taking drugs is that you never know for certain what you’ve taken… unless you test them!

WEDINOS is a free and anonymous drug checking service. You can send them a sample of your drugs in the post to be laboratory tested. 

Drug testing kits are easy to order, legal, and easy to use. To use them, often all you need is a tiny sample of the drugs you intend to take, and ten minutes to wait for the results. 

SSY and Help Not Harm activists have been applying pressure on public institutions to start supplying drug test kits to all who need them. Below are a few services that we recommend for folk who want to test their drugs!

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail

On this page there are a number of resources and links that contain information about the potential risks of using specific drugs and how to mitigate them.

Before doing any drug, take time to ensure you know what to expect and what to do if things go wrong.

overdose prevention

The majority of drug deaths in Scotland come from accidental poisoning and overdose. Many activists and organisations are providing access to take home opioid overdose prevention kits.

Overdose prevention is carried out by healthcare workers, but by the time an overdosing patient reaches them, it may already be too late.

Anybody 16+ can receive overdose prevention training and access to Naloxone.

about cannabis

Cannabis (aka. weed) is a mild psychedelic drug, extremely popular in Scotland and worldwide. People use it both recreationally and medicinally.

Cannabis has a strong cultural identity in Western countries, and many states have recently moved to decriminalise its use. Despite its relative safety, many people underestimate cannabis, so it is important to read about its effects and what to do if something goes wrong!

Click on the image below to find out more from Crew.

about ketamine

Ketamine (aka. ket) is a disassociative drug, popular in Scotland and the UK. People use it recreationally in a club setting, but also often in their own homes.

When consuming ket, many people seek an intense high known as a “K-hole”, wherein the user experiences a state of disassociation.

Due to the unpredictability of street drugs, it can be easy for someone to take too much ket and end up in a K-hole by accident. Without learning about how to dose your ketamine, or what to do if things go wrong, entering a K-hole can be a very confusing and frightening experience.

Click on the image below to find out more about ket from Crew.

about MDMA/eccies

MDMA (aka. mandy, eccies, etc.) is a stimulant drug, popular in the Scottish clubbing and festival scene. While known for its use at festivals, many people also take mandy at parties and events in their own home.

This drug can come in the form of a powder or a pill. In both states they are often cut with other drugs to save money, so using test kits is especially important.

Due to the intense effect that MDMA has on your brain chemistry, it is not advised that you take ecstasy pills or powder more than once in a month. To be safest, and get the most out of your rolls, try to follow the 3 month rule!

MDMA pills have been responsible for a number of youth deaths in Scotland, but when the correct precautions are taken, the risks of consuming MDMA fall considerably.

Click on the image below to find out more from Crew.

about benzos

Benzodiazepines (aka. benzos, xans, etc.) are sedative drugs. They are often prescribed to people to help manage pain and other health conditions, though many people also take them recreationally.

Particular focus has been directed towards these drugs in recent years due to their frequent involvement in drug-related deaths.

Click on the image below to find out more from Crew.

about cocaine

Cocaine (aka. coke, sniff, etc.) is a stimulant drug. It is one of the most expensive street drugs that is popular among a variety of social groups in Scotland. 

Cocaine can be highly addictive for those who use it, and can create serious financial difficulties for people who become addicted.

Like MDMA, Cocaine is often cut with other drugs to save money for dealers. One popular cutting agent is Benzocaine, a local anaesthetic used by dentists to numb parts of a patient’s mouth. 

Cocaine lies responsible for many drug deaths in Scotland every year, so taking necessary steps to reduce the risks of coke are very important.

Click on the image below to find out more from Crew.

about speed

Amphetamine (aka. speed) is a stimulant drug. 

Like Cocaine, Speed can be highly addictive for those who use it. Like Cocaine and MDMA, Speed may be cut with other drugs.

Prolonged use of Speed — like MDMA, Cocaine and many other drugs — may result in long lasting health problems. 

Click on the image below to find out more from Crew.

about smart drugs

Smart Drugs (aka. study drugs, inc. Ritalin, Adderall) are stimulant drugs, usually prescribed by NHS workers to people with ADHD.

These drugs affect a user’s ability to concentrate, producing an extreme level of focus and improving cognition.

Like many other stimulants, Smart Drugs can be addictive for those who use them. 

These drugs are often abused by students and people who need to focus for long periods of time. 

Click on the image below to find out more from Crew.

other resources

This brief resource about harm reduction may not have the information you came looking for. 

Listed below are useful links to further resources that focus on harm reduction and drug-use information…

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