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Ten Things You Can Do to Practice Harm Reduction If You Use Drugs

By Paul Cherashore


    Ten Things You Can Do to Practice Harm Reduction If You Use Drugs

  1. Drink lots of water since it's cheap, eliminates toxins, relieves stress on kidneys and liver, good for your skin and promotes regularity. To be safe, drink bottled water or tap water that has been boiled first.

  2. Prevent overdosing by not mixing drugs (especially depressants and opiates), and by being aware of changes in drug tolerance. Most ODs happen either because people mix drugs with similar effects, or undergo a change in tolerance but don't make the necessary dosage adjustment.

  3. Keep physically active. Moderate exercise stimulates your immune system, can reduce the chances of stroke and heart disease, and is good for your mental health too!

  4. Support your recovery. While relapse is now acknowledged to be part of the recovery process, you can still treat it like the rain: let it come another day. Check the Yellow Pages or Directory Assistance for Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and/or Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

  5. If you're still using, moderate your use since it's easier to do this before it gets out of control than after. You may want to check out the substance use management groups.

  6. Know where to get clean syringes and try to get them before you need them. Some pharmacies in certain states (such as New York State) may sell new needles for personal use, and many locations have needle-exchange programs.

  7. Catch those minor health problems early. Seek out programs and institutions that provide preventive care and that can tackle problems before they become too serious.

  8. Try ear acupuncture which can help those who are thinking about cutting down or stopping, or who are just stressed out.

  9. Take care of your mental health. Seek out psychotherapy or other types of mental health care for help with any issues you may be struggling with.

  10. Be informed about hepatitis C. Up to 90% of HIV-positive people who got infected by drug use also have the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Contact local groups that address hepatitis or search for information on the Internet. It is also important to get screened for HCV and screened and vaccinated for the hepatitis A and B viruses (no vaccination currently exists for HCV).

Paul Cherashore is a National Hepatitis C Trainer for the Harm Reduction Coalition in New York City.

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