Staying Safe: Harm Reduction

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Harm reduction is a spectrum of strategies an individual can use right away to protect their own health and wellbeing whether or not they are using drugs. Harm reduction emphasizes quality of individual and community life and well-being — not necessarily cessation of all drug use — as the criteria for success. Some examples of harm reduction are designating a driver to prevent driving while intoxicated, arranging to use drugs with trusted companions in a safer environment, and needle exchange programs for people who inject drugs.

The highest priority of harm reduction is overdose prevention. Harm reduction strategies to prevent overdose include:

  • Using one substance at a time (avoid mixing – particularly alcohol or pills with heroin or other opioids)
  • Using a small amount if you haven’t used in a while
  • Trying a small amount first to test strength, being especially careful if getting drugs from a new source or dealer
  • Using fentanyl testing strips to determine its presence in a supply of drugs
  • Drinking enough water to avoid dehydration
  • Eating regularly to ensure adequate nutrition
  • Getting clean needles, naloxone overdose kits, fentanyl strips, or smoking supplies from a local needle exchange program

If overdose happens, rescue is more likely when people:

  • Don’t use substances alone
  • Have an overdose plan with someone nearby
  • Have a friend with you who knows what you’ve taken and how much so they can call for help if needed
  • Have naloxone (opioid overdose reversal drug) ready and have someone nearby who knows how to use it

Accessing Naloxone

Additional Resources

  • Fentanyl in LA County Factsheet
  • Fentanyl in LA County Talking to Parents and Youth Factsheet
  • Fentanyl in LA County Learn More About Naloxone Factsheet
  • Parent Fentanyl and Overdose Toolkit
  • Students Fentanyl and Overdose Toolkit
  • Teacher Fentanyl and Overdose Toolkit

County of los angeles California Public Health