What is harm reduction? “Harm reduction can be viewed as the prevention of adverse consequences of illicit drug use without necessarily reducing their consumption.”
(Costigan, Crofts & Reid, 2003, p. 35)
What is overdose? An overdose occurs when a toxic (poisonous) amount of a substance is taken.
An individual’s tolerance to overdose varies with age, health status, how the substance was consumed and other factors.
The majority of overdoses occur when drugs are mixed, changes in the purity of heroin alone is rarely the cause of overdose.
The most common time for overdose is when the person has been abstinent for some time and tolerance has lowered.
The majority of overdoses are accidental.
The majority of fatalities with overdoses occur when the person is alone.
Who is at risk of overdose?
Anyone who uses substances and especially:
Someone who has recently been abstinent and lapses/relapses may OD due to using the same amounts they were using before they became abstinent. Their tolerance will not be the same as before and they are at risk of using too much and overdosing.
Injecting drug users are more at risk than those who use other methods.
Speedballing: If clients are injecting crack and heroin together (speedballing) then it is vitally important to warn the client that when combined they can seemingly increase the effects of the cocaine. Also the effect of the cocaine can make it seem that users have not had much heroin consequently increasing the risk of accidental overdose. It is therefore advised that users reduce the amount of both drugs in each injection and try to avoid using bigger barrels.
Overdosing by injecting more than the body can handle.
Infection from non-sterile injection methods such as sharing.
Use dirty or used needles and you increase the chances of Tetanus, HIV or Hepatitis infection.
Abscesses and gangrene due to missing the vein when injecting.
Vein damage and collapse from repeated injecting or using blunt needles
The impurities that are without doubt mixed with any street drug (ranging from rat poison to talcum powder), may cause allergic or toxic reactions with unpleasant short-term symptoms, and can also block veins and infect injection sites causing septicaemia and abscesses.