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Safer Drug Practices in the Time of Coronavirus

April 17, 2020

Coronavirus has impacted everyone’s lives and has had a fatal effect on the many people who use drugs. In Erie County and other areas across the nation, we are seeing an uptick in overdose deaths. At Evergreen, it is important to us that we support our community using established harm reduction tactics to decrease the number of overdoses.

Stock Up on Supplies

As always, the Syringe Exchange at Evergreen in open. In Buffalo, we can be found at 206 S. Elmwood Avenue and our Jamestown Syringe Exchange is now located at 320 Prather Avenue. We encourage all visitors to stock up on supplies, at least two weeks’ worth, during this time to reduce contamination or cross contamination. Because Coronavirus is limiting the ability of many people to access resources, it is more important than ever to take advantage of free supplies and always have Narcan on hand in the event of an overdose.

Don’t Use Alone

Social distancing changes protocol for using drugs. It is still important to not use drugs alone. It is safer to use drugs while keeping a distance of at least six feet from anyone outside your household so that person can administer Narcan if needed or call for help. If you are alone, you can call the Never Use Alone hotline at (800) 484-3731 or video chat a friend or family member before using.

Clean Supplies Are Key

Keeping drug supplies clean is more important than ever. If you smoke drugs, do not share pipes, bongs, straws, e-cigarettes or joints, as saliva can transmit Coronavirus. If you do share supplies, clean anything that touches your lips, nose or hands between uses with an alcohol swab. Those who inject drugs should not share needles. If you decide to share or reuse needles, they should be rinsed out with clean water, then use diluted bleach and clean water again. Any drug packaging or baggies should be cleaned thoroughly with alcohol-based wipes or cleansers.

When using, prepare your own drugs yourself, to limit Coronavirus contamination. Remember, people can be asymptomatic, so it is best to keep distance from anyone outside your household unless necessary. Use a clean surface to set up your supplies and if that is not available, use a clean newspaper, paper towels or magazine. Keep all injection sites clean and wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least twenty seconds.

Use Fentanyl Testing Strips and Prepare for Unexpected Situations

There may be shortages in drug supplies during the pandemic, so be prepared for withdrawal symptoms you may experience. Those selling drugs may add Fentanyl to drugs, which can be fatal. Please utilize the Fentanyl testing strips that Evergreen provides and act accordingly. Test strips that show Fentanyl do not show how much or how strong it is. Use test shots and take it slow. Other drugs may be cut with harmful or unexpected materials and some may contain none of the drugs you intended on purchasing.

Take Extra Precautions with Downers

Because Coronavirus severely disables lung function, downers like opiates and benzodiazepines that affect breathing are even more dangerous. If you are experiencing trouble breathing, try not to use downers or drugs that affect your ability to breathe. Make sure you are not using alone and have Naloxone available.

We Are Here for You

For more information, our Syringe Exchange Program coordinator in Jamestown, Ian Eastman spoke about Harm Reduction in the time of COVID-19, produced by the Chautauqua County Department of Mental Hygiene and the Chautauqua Substance Abuse Response Partnership. See the video below.

Evergreen wants you to know you do not have to go through these hard times alone. Reach out to our harm reduction center for support. A staff member is here for you.