Note: Over the coming months, in partnership with Fruit Loop, the EMHC will be delivering a range of safer substance use activities. Check back soon for more local data and for an expanded safer substance use section which will include new harm reduction tips and safer substance use information for opioid use.
Guys in Edmonton are using drugs. Period.
When the 2014/15 Sex Now Survey asked Edmonton participants (n=363) about the substances they used in the last 12 months, here’s what they had to say:
Not everyone can have a healthy relationship with substance use. For some people, drugs can have a very damaging impact on their relationships and their wellbeing. Conversely, for some, substance use can actually be the result of existing health or social challenges.
If substance use is disrupting or impacting your life and health negatively, you should speak with your family doctor or a mental health/addictions professional. They can help you lessen or stop your substance use, or help you find a way to use substances in a healthier manner.
For those who are using substances, either because they feel they can or don’t feel like they can stop, it’s important to understand how these substances impact your body and overall health. Substances can lower your inhibitions and potentially place you at a higher risk of contracting various STIs, including HIV and Hepatitis C. Also, there is some risk associated with the use of almost any substance. Some can be very mild while others can be severe – like death. However, by understanding how the drugs you use impact your body and how they interact with other drugs you might be using, you can lessen the harm they may cause you (harm reduction).
The tables below have been compiled based on information obtained from various medical sources in addition to anecdotal evidence from substance-using communities. If you are concerned about the impact a substance might have on your body, always speak with a qualified healthcare or addictions professional first. In the meantime, the following general harm reduction tips and the drug-specific information found in the tables below might provide you with some information which can help you use substances in a safer way.
General Harm Reduction Tips:
If you’re going to use a substance, it’s always a good idea to start with a small dose. You can always put more in your body, but once it’s in there it’s hard (and sometimes impossible) to get it out.
Sometimes when you buy a substance you want, it can be spliced with other substances, some of which can be quite dangerous. If you have second thoughts about the source of a substance or what’s in it, don’t use it. One high is not worth your life. Consider testing your substances to make sure you know what you’re putting into your body. Drug testing kits can be purchased from www.dancesafe.org.
HIV, HCV, and other STIs can be passed through the sharing of substance use equipment (primarily through blood). This includes injection equipment (needles), inhalation equipment (pipes), and snorting equipment (a straw or rolled bill). Whenever possible, access clean, unused substance use equipment and do not share with others. If you are in a situation where you are going to share substance use equipment with someone else, try your best to ensure that the equipment is as clean as possible and free from blood and other bodily fluids to lessen the likelihood of transmission. If you are looking to access clean substance use equipment, contact our partner, Streetworks.
Substance use can also increase the likelihood of HIV, HCV, and STI transmission through sex. This might be because you have rougher sex when high (which is more likely to result in the presence of blood), because you have less inhibitions than when you’re sober, or because it can be more challenging to apply safer sex knowledge and harm reduction strategies while high. If you feel like you’re going to be using substances and that might result in you having “riskier” sex, take a moment while you’re sober to help lessen that risk (i.e. consider using PrEP to prevent HIV or make sure you have condoms with you). Click here to learn more about safer sex strategies or here to learn more about PrEP access in Alberta.
Carry a Naloxone kit. Currently, Alberta is facing an opioid crisis. A Naloxone kit can be accessed free of charge and is small enough to fit in a backpack. If you’re going to be using substances and think that you might come into contact with opioids (particularly fentanyl), make sure that you or someone you know has access to a kit. Naloxone can “pause” an overdose long enough for you or someone you know to get help. To learn more about getting trained for Naloxone, check out our opioid awareness project.
Finally, never use alone – or make sure someone knows you’re using and is able to check on you. Even if you think you’re prepared, sometimes things can go wrong. By having someone you trust on the lookout for you, they can respond if anything goes wrong and make sure you get the help you need.