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Every substance comes with specific safety concerns.

Northreach is guided by the principles of harm reduction and education. People are free to do what they choose; we are not here to tell them what they can or cannot consume. We meet people where they are at without judgement.

Guided by harm reduction and education, we offer safety advice when it comes to substance consumption. We know we can never completely eliminate the risks involved, but through honest conversation and education we can greatly reduce them. The following provides information on substances and harm reduction practices.


For in-depth factsheets on substances, including category, chemical breakdown, effects, etc., check out TRIPSIT. This resource is useful for anyone who uses substances or knows someone who uses substances as they also have a Drug Combinations page which help people who use substances stay safer. Both searches are user-friendly and full of well-researched information.




  • use sterile equipment every time (supplies available at Northreach)
  • planning ahead, knowing what supplies you will need and learning how/where to inject (safer injecting guide)
  • never use alone
  • know your source
  • properly disposing of used equipment (needle/sharps containers available from Northreach)
  • carry Naloxone, as fentanyl has been found in substances from any drug category
  • For skin popping: use new and sterile supplies every time, massage area of injection, alcohol swab area and allow to dry before injecting, do not alcohol swab after, cold compress if heated, hot compress if abscessed.
  • Toward the Heart has great resources, including a safer injection video. (Trigger warning: shows someone injecting)


  • use your own pipe, do not share (kits available at Northreach office)
  • use Pyrex or glass pipe
  • using a mouth piece/tip at the end of pipe protects lips from burns or cuts
  • do not re-use pipe if chipped or broken
  • lip balm helps prevent chapping or damage to lips
  • change filters regularly
  • know your source and never use alone
  • For additional info regarding smoking crack, check out Catie.
  • For additional info on preventing toxicity with meth, check out Catie.


  • do not share equipment or use disposable equipment
  • a pack of Post-It notes can be a large supply of disposable/rollable straws
  • do not use rolled money as straw
  • rinse nose with warm water after; snorting a few drops carries substances to throat (less waste, better care)
  • use vitamin E oil or lotion inside the nose to help heal (Catie)


  • allow for digestion time, as this is slowest route for effects, leading to potential for toxicity if double dosing while waiting for original dose to be felt.
  • swallowing substances is the safest route
  • rinse mouth after as potential residue can lead to harm


  • wash your hands, and have anyone assisting wash their hands, before and after insertion
  • if applicable do not share insertion equipment
  • insertion can lead to irritated lining, which increases risk of infections/STIs/HIV, therefore using safer sex supplies (external “male” or internal “female” condoms) is important


Inaba, D., & Cohen, W. E. (2014). Uppers, downers, all arounders: Physical and mental effects of psychoactive drugs. Medford, OR: CNS Publications.

Streetworks. (2005). Uptown, Downtown: the Drug Handbook. http://www.streetworks.ca/pdfs/Drug_Book.pdf

Sunshine Coast Health Center. Drugs of Abuse: An Identification Guide. https://www.sunshinecoasthealthcentre.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/SCHC_DIGuide2019_Oct_fnl.pdfwww.schc.ca