COVID-19 Harm Reduction for People Who Use Drugs
These Hands Save Lives: Joseph Outlaw, HIV / HEPC Testing and Outreach Coordinator, Human Resource Agency in New Britain, CT. Source: The Hands Project, Nigel Brundson
This twitter thread from our colleagues at the International Network of People Who Use Drugs, a global peer led network for the human rights and health of the drug using community, offers harm reduction advice for people who use drugs during the COVID19 health crisis. You can also access this information in French, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, Italian, Swedish, Romanian and Russian.
The following tips were developed to inform the global community of drug users on important harm reduction tips to practice during the current COVID-19 ("coronavirus") pandemic. Please share, disseminate, and alter as needed to fit the needs of your community. And above all else, please stay safe and look after each other.
- DON'T SHARE pipes, bongs, vapes or joints, nasal tubes, and all injecting equipment including sterilized water
- If you've got the money, try to STOCK UP on your drugs of choice before things deteriorate much further
- If you are on OST ask your doctor if you can GET A 3 MONTH TAKE-HOME PRESCRIPTION. Ask if you can skip appointments and urine testing for at least three months.
- BE PREPARED TO GO THROUGH INVOLUNTARY WITHDRAWAL if your supplier(s) gets sick. Have backup plans and make sure you have all the necessary medications, food and drinks you will need to detox off opiates. Similar steps can be taken by those with habits to other drugs.
- 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)
- 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). Anti-bacterial washes don't kill viruses but are better than nothing.
- 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
- 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. Paper towels are preferred for drying hands, or at least use a clean towel
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
*INPUD is a global peer-based organisation that seeks to promote the health and defend the rights of people who use drugs. INPUD will expose and challenge stigma, discrimination, and the criminalisation of people who use drugs and its impact on the drug-using community’s health and rights. INPUD will achieve this through processes of empowerment and advocacy at the international level, while supporting empowerment and advocacy at community, national and regional levels. Follow INPUD on Twitter.