This section provides some basic information regarding drug use, how to reduce harm and change risky behaviour.
‘Harm reduction’ refers to interventions directed towards people, who continue to use drugs, aimed at reducing the impact of that drug use on their physical health. The most significant harms are associated with injecting behaviour, including the spread of blood-borne viruses, bacterial infections, damage to the circulatory system and overdose.
While more detail on these risks is given below, the single most important harm reduction measure is to use a new needle and syringe for every injection. Injecting equipment is available from Needle & Syringe Programmes (NSPs) across Derbyshire. Specialist NSPs are provided by Derbyshire Substance Misuse Service at their bases in Chesterfield, Ripley, Ilkeston and Swadlincote and injecting equipment is also available in a number of pharmacies. A complete list of NSPs is available here.
Although injecting is the principle cause of harm, it must be remembered that there are risks associated with other aspects of drug use. In particular, there is concern around the proliferation of new drugs, previously known as ‘legal highs’ and now usually referred to as Novel (or New) Psychoactive Substances.
There is concern that people may not be aware of what they are taking, what they effects may be or how strong it is. There have been a significant number of overdoses linked to these substances.
If you find a needle, don't touch, hide it, or put it in the bin. Contact the building owner, local council or the police to remove safely. A free and confidential needle and syringe programme in Derbyshire is available to anyone injecting drugs and aiming to reduce infection. Look for a chemist with the arrow symbol shown at the top of this page.
In an emergency
Always call an ambulance if you think someone has overdosed. The police will not attend unless there is a death at the time. If the ambulance crew suspect evidence of harm to children or vulnerable people or if the crew are in fear of attack the police will be called. Those who have detoxed from heroin or other opiates are at very high risk of overdose if they use drugs again as their tolerance steadily subsides over time.
New Psychoactive Substances (NPS)
New psychoactive substances have not been tested and users don't know what they are taking or the risks and long term effects of the drug will be. Just because some substances may be 'legal', it doesn't make it safe to use. New psychoactive substances contain a range of potentially dangerous chemicals which can cause serious damage to the body and mind. Many drugs that were new psychoactive substances have been made illegal, such as mephedrone, butylane, GBl, BZP, methedrone and methylone.
Remember that possession of a controlled substance is against the law and if stopped by the police you may be searched and prosecuted. Also, consider that many psychoactive substances are NOT legal and often are not safe. If you want information and support to stop taking drugs, go to the treatment services page.