Drug Harm Reduction Information
Don’t Take Drugs Alone
Taking drugs on your own is not a wise idea.
Most fatal overdoses take place when people are taking drugs on their own, behind closed doors. Taking drugs alone increases the chances of a fatal overdose, because there is no one else there to call for help. This is why it’s really important to have a trusted person there who can call emergency services for help if it’s needed.
Having someone you can trust with you in the room is really important when using opioids. It means there is someone there who can call for an ambulance. However, they might also be able to give you naloxone, which can be used in emergencies to help reverse the effects of opioids.
Don’t Mix Drugs
Taking a mixture of different drugs in a single session can be very dangerous
Don’t Try New Substances
Everyone should be very cautious about the sources they buy drugs from, and the drugs they take.
Signs of an Overdose
If you believe someone is having an overdose, or if you feel unwell after taking any drug, dial 999 immediately.
There are key actions that can reduce some dangers when injecting drugs.
It is important to dispose of used needles carefully. The best place is a proper sharps bin, which you can get from your local needle exchange and some chemists. For more information on needle exchange in Dumfries and Galloway contact:
Naloxone is the name of a medication which can temporarily reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.
Remember: naloxone kits save lives.
Tolerance is your body’s ability to process a certain amount of a drug. Low tolerance means that your body can only process a small amount of a drug (i.e. it takes less drugs to feel the effects).
Tolerance develops over time, so the amount of a drug a long-time user needs to feel the drug’s effects can be more than a newer user. Tolerance also wavers depending on several factors including, weight, size, illness, stress, compromised immune system, and age.
Most importantly, tolerance can decrease rapidly when someone has taken a break from using a drug whether intentionally – for example, while in drug treatment or detoxification – or unintentionally – for example, while in police custody or the hospital.
Taking the same quantities of a drug that you believe you are used to, after a period of abstinence increases your risk of a fatal overdose.
Blood Borne Viruses
Blood Borne Viruses (BBVs) (e.g. hepatitis C, HIV) can be passed from person to person in a variety of ways, such as sharing injecting equipment or blood/bodily fluid contact with a person who has a BBV.
If you are worried you have a BBV we recommend you get tested. This can be organised by either contacting We Are With You or by contacting the NHS Specialist Drug and Alcohol Service.
HIV, Hepatitis C and STI testing along with sexual health advice is available at all Sexual Health Clinics in Dumfries and Galloway and is free of charge.
It’s recommended that you don’t drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week, spread out over at least 3 days, to keep the risks from alcohol low. This is the same for both men and women.
14 units is the equivalent of:
It is best to spread this evenly across the week rather than drinking all at once. Having several alcohol-free days each week is a good way to cut down.
Tips for cutting down
What is a unit?
A unit is 10ml of pure alcohol.
You can work out how many units are in any drink. Multiply the volume (in ml) by the % abv (strength) then divide by 1000.
For example, a 750ml bottle of wine which is 13% abv would be:
750 x 13 = 9,750/1000 = 9.75 units
Or use this handy drinks calculator: https://www.count14.scot/#unit-calculator
Alcohol poisoning can happen when you drink alcohol quicker than your body can process it. It can make you seriously ill and you may need to go to hospital for treatment.
If you believe someone has alcohol poisoning all 999 immediately.
Things you can do to help someone who has drank to much alcohol
Recognising Alcohol Withdrawal
Heavy drinkers who suddenly decrease or stop drinking altogether may experience withdrawal symptoms. They are potentially dangerous and should be treated as a serious warning sign that you are drinking too much.
Withdrawal symptoms are part of a condition called ‘alcohol withdrawal syndrome’, which is a reaction caused when someone who has become dependent on alcohol stops drinking it.
The more you drink on a regular basis, the more you’re likely to be affected by withdrawal symptoms. To keep health risks from alcohol to a low level, the UK Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) advise it is safest not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis.
If you are concerned you might be dependent on alcohol, you should seek medical advice to help you cut down and stop your drinking safely.
Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal
Withdrawal symptoms can be physical and psychological, and range in severity from mild to severe.
Typical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can include:
Milder symptoms usually start within eight to 24 hours from the last alcoholic drink.
Severe symptoms can additionally include hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that aren’t real), as well as seizures or delirium tremens (‘DTs’).
Delirium tremens is a severe indication of alcohol withdrawal. Symptoms include:
Severe withdrawal effects can be life threatening.
Approximately one in 10 people with alcohol withdrawal syndrome are affected by seizures. If left untreated, up to one in three of these patients go on to experience delirium tremens.
If you (or someone you’re looking after) experience repeated vomiting, severe shaking or hallucinations, seek medical attention.
If you think you are dependent on alcohol or are looking for support to reduce and stop your drinking, it is important to seek help.
Alcohol, Drugs and Pregnancy
When you’re pregnant, taking drugs and/or drinking alcohol can seriously affect you and your baby’s health. Sometimes this can be lifelong.
How drugs can harm your baby
Taking drugs (including tobacco and alcohol) when you’re pregnant, even in small quantities, can put your baby’s health at serious risk. It increases the risk they’ll be stillborn or will die in the first few weeks and months of life.
These are difficult things to imagine happening but are real risks if you take drugs.
Your baby’s also more likely to:
You should also speak to your GP, midwife or a drug support service if you’re regularly taking prescribed medicines. Stopping your medication suddenly could be harmful for you and your baby.
Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS)
Some prescribed or illegal drugs that can cause physical dependency can pass through the placenta and be absorbed by your baby.
Following delivery your baby may show signs of physical withdrawal known as Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.
Some of these babies may need specialist care after birth and medical treatment to help them withdraw.
If you have any questions about NAS you should speak to your midwife.
How alcohol can harm your baby
There’s no known safe limit of drinking during pregnancy.
Some people will tell you that having the odd drink when you’re pregnant is okay.
The safest option is to stop drinking when you’re trying to get pregnant or as soon as you know you’re pregnant.
Your baby’s developing all the way through your pregnancy. Alcohol can be harmful at any stage.
Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)
If you drink while pregnant your baby could develop fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). This is a term used to describe a range of alcohol-related birth defects.
About 3 in every 100 children and young people in the UK have FASD, but it’s preventable by avoiding alcohol when pregnant or planning a pregnancy.
FASD may not always be detected at birth but can cause problems later in life, including: