HIV Community Link is committed to supporting harm reduction, and with summertime in full swing, the Calgary Folk Festival, as well as Calgary Pride just around the corner, it’s a great opportunity to share information about staying safe during this season of festivals, events, parties, and patios. With an understanding that for many people, drugs and alcohol are a part of “letting loose”, and that no substance use is without risk, here are ten ways you can keep yourself and your community safe this summer.
- Have a plan. What substances might you partake in and what are the safest ways to use that drug? How will you and your group get home? Who could you call just in case? If sexual activity might be a part of your plan, think ahead and make sure you are equipped with condoms and/or other risk reduction strategies (contraception, PrEP, etc.) Ask us for details!
- Use the buddy system. This means partying with a friend or group, so you can all look out for one another and get home safely. If you decide to take drugs, let a trusted friend know. You never know when you might need their help or support. Did you know that under the new Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act, anyone who calls 911 for a drug overdose is immune to simple drug possession charges? So don’t hesitate to call for help!
- Will you or your group be taking drugs? Carry a Naloxone kit. There have been reports of several recreational drugs being contaminated with strong opioids like Fentanyl. A drug called Naloxone, along with rescue breathing, can reverse an opioid overdose and save a life. Learn the signs of overdose and what to do. Find out more here.
- Know that no illegal drug is created equally, and potency and purity will differ from one batch to the next. Consider getting a drug checking kit to learn more about what’s in your drugs. When dosing, start low and go slow. Don’t re-dose for at least an hour, sometimes setting a timer helps. You can always take more, but you can’t take less.
- Avoid mixing drugs, and this includes alcohol and prescription medications. Some drugs, such as opioids, alcohol, GHB, ketamine and some medications can depress your central nervous system and breathing reflex. Combined together, the risk of overdose and death is greatly increased. Check out this guide to drug combinations.
- Take care of your body. When the heat is on, whether you’re having some alcoholic beverages, dancing your pants off, or taking drugs, remember to take bio-breaks, drink a bottle of water, sit down, and have a snack. Protect your hearing with earplugs too! Your body will thank you later.
- Look out for others. If you see someone having a difficult time or who might need help, be friendly and offer to connect them with event staff. Don’t leave anyone to sleep it off! Be on the lookout for persons who may try to take advantage of an intoxicated person who cannot consent.
- Respect the boundaries of the people around you and help create spaces that are safe for everyone, because dance floors are the most fun when shared respectfully and in the spirit of celebrating diversity.
- There is a lot of stigma about drug use in our community. The more we talk about it and bring it out of the shadows, the more we can support each other, find the resources we may need, and lead happy, healthy lives.
- Learn about, support, and advocate for harm reduction efforts in your community, your workplace, and on social media. Together, we can create a safer environment for everyone and hey, we can even save lives!
Have a happy, healthy summer, and stay safe!
Dominique Denis-Lalonde BN RN
Team Lead, Prevention and Education HIV Community Link