Alcohol and Drugs

Harm Reduction: Getting off right


How young people can stay safe while under the influence For your safety, don't use heroin alone or in a locked room.

Harm Reduction

  • Heroin is extremely addictive, no matter how it is used.
  • Overdose is always a risk, even for experienced users. Always do a small amount first, to test the potency.
  • Most overdoses occur when heroin is used with other depressants (e.g., alcohol) or after a break of a few days.
  • For your safety, don't use heroin alone or in a locked room.
  • Snorting brings the risk of hepatitis. Do not share straws or bills.
  • Injecting brings the risk of infection, abscess, vein damage, blood clots, all of which can lead to death. Learn how to inject safely.
  • Don't share needles, cookers, cotton filters, water, or alcohol pads. Sharing can pass HIV and hepatitis. Used needles damage veins.
  • Use new syringes and new equipment. Prepare your shot on a clean surface. Clean your skin with soap and water or an alcohol pad.
  • Get injection supplies from a syringe exchange, a pharmacy, or your local health department.
  • If you can?t get new needles, try smoking or snorting. Cleaning needles and works is not risk-free; it?s a last resort. Rinse with cool water 3 times, bleach for 30 seconds, then clean water 3 times.
  • Possession and sale of heroin can carry stiff penalties, e.g., prison.

Harm Reduction: A Guide to Cleaning Used Syringes

Substance abuse treatment and access to sterile syringes are essential components of HIV prevention among injection drug users.

Harm Reduction Coalition

Clean syringe access

  • pharmacies
  • physician prescription
  • syringe exchange programs

The best way to avoid contracting hepatitis C and other blood borne viruses such as HIV and hepatitis B is not to inject.

Harm Reduction - Needle Exchange IntroductionHOT
File Size 8.24 MB

Harm Reduction - Syringe Exchange ProgramHOT
File Size 4.38 MB

Harm Reduction - How to Clean a Used SyringeHOT
File Size 3.2 MB

A Disinfected Syringe is NOT a Sterile Syringe If it is done carefully and thoroughly, disinfection can reduce the amount of live HIV, HBV, and HCV in a syringe.

However, even the best disinfection procedure cannot guarantee that all viruses have been killed. The plastic syringes usually used by IDUs are designed for one-time use. They are not designed to be cleaned and used again.

Disinfected syringes do NOT meet the standards that are applied in all other settings in which people use syringes (such as hospitals, other health care settings, and insulin injections by people with diabetes). In these settings, people must use a new, sterile syringe for every injection.

For these reasons, a disinfected syringe is NOT as safe as a new, sterile syringe. Recommendations about disinfecting syringes with bleach or others agents apply ONLY to situations in which IDUs do not have sterile syringes.

Substance abuse treatment and access to sterile syringes through pharmacies, physician prescription, and syringe exchange programs are essential components of HIV prevention efforts among injection drug users. 


US Syringe Exchange Program Database

NASEN is dedicated to the creation, expansion and continued existence of syringe exchange programs as a proven method of stopping the transmission of blood-borne pathogens in the injecting drug using community.

The following is a list by state/province/territory of those syringe exchange programs in North America that have given us permission to make their contact information public. This is not a definitive list of all syringe exchange programs.

AK | AZ | CA | CO | CT | DC | DE | FL | GA | HI | IL | IN | LA | MA | MD | ME | MI | MN | MO | MT | NC | NE | NJ | NM | NY | OH | OR | PA | PR | RI | VT | WA | WI