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Safe Alcohol, Cannabis & Other Drug Consumption During COVID-19

Table of Contents 2

Managing Stress Without Substances

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Myth & Fact

Quitting Alcohol

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Other substances

Safe Drug Use During the Pandemic


Stress and anxiety are high right now. We know that uncertainty and the need to distance yourself socially poses a huge challenge for students who are used to being surrounded by friends and classmates. There are ways to stay productive and engaged and manage your stress and anxiety. Some helpful tips below. Be kind to yourself This is a stressful and uncertain time, feeling anxious, frustrated, and even angry are normal responses to things out of our control. Your emotions are valid and normal.

Try a new emotional management technique Maybe you are a verbal processor and setting a time to get together via Zoom or Google Hangouts with your friends or family will give you the opportunity to talk it out in a safe way. Perhaps trying your hand at journaling again to write and navigate your emotions will be good. Try a creative endeavor like painting or drawing to help you navigate all of the feels you might be experiencing right now.

Pick up a new hobby Ever wanted to learn to knit, or play that guitar that you’ve had since 8th grade? Now’s your chance. With the need to keep physical distance, many of us find that we are staying home and may be at a bit of a loss as to what to do with the time. It’s a great opportunity to try that hobby you’ve wanted to cultivate but not had the time. YouTube has a ton of great resources to help you to learn in the comfort of your own home. 2

MANAGING STRESS WITHOUT SUBSTANCES Try out those recipes you’ve been wanting to try Or that ingredient in your cupboard that you had every intention of using…for the last six months (oh come on now, we’ve all done it. Red Lentils?). Do some research about its properties and different recipes and try one out. Or maybe make up one of your own.

Meditate Yes, like really give it a go. There are some great apps available (Headspace, Calm, Koru, etc.) that can help guide you through the process. Or, simply go onto YouTube to find some great guided meditations to suit almost any needs. Or, do some research into the numerous breathing, mindfulness, physical mediation techniques that might work for you.

You do you All of these recommendations are good things to try but, you know yourself best. Utilize those tools that you know you have to help you manage your stress. If physical activity is something you crave, take a look at our Physical Health Resource Guide for ideas about how you can incorporate at home routines that work for you. Above all, take care of your health and wellness and it will help you to be stronger to weather the challenges we find before us.



MYTH: A hospital says consuming alcohol kills the coronavirus A copy of an unsigned letter dated March 7 started circulating on the Internet four days later. The letter said that following “extensive research, our findings show consuming alcoholic beverages may help to reduce the risk of infection by the novel coronavirus….” It went on to recommend vodka for “drinking, cleaning and sanitizing.”

FACT: Alcohol use at any level lowers your immunity and make you more susceptible to infection. Studies over the years have indicated that alcohol can deal a double blow to your immune system. “It messes with humans' gastrointestinal system, altering the function of healthy gut microbes linked to immunity. Alcohol can also impair key immune cells in the lungs and damage epithelial cells that line the lungs' surface.”



MYTH: I am healthy but I vape. I’m not worried about COVID-19. FACT: Smoking cigarettes, cannabis, and vaping effect the lining of your lungs. COVID-19 targets the lungs and can cause pneumonia. If you smoke or vape, now may be a good time to look at your options to quit. The CDC’s website was tools, tips, and plans to help you quit as does Smoke Or, look for apps like quitSTART. Or check out this list of the best apps for quitting. This could be a great opportunity for you to get clear about what you want from your health and how to best achieve it. Start by reading some of the articles linked above and make a plan. It often takes numerous attempts to stop or even to cut back. Keep trying and reach out for support.



Maybe it’s a good time to test out a sober month. Or, maybe you’ve been “sober curious” for a while. Sober Curious means just that; you are curious about the role alcohol plays in your life and wonder if that role is just too big. It asks you to look at your beliefs and reasons for using and then try out the amount that works for you. Studies indicate that even a short break can aid in weight loss, improvements in liver health, blood pressure, and insulin levels. There are ways to have fun and explore how you might feel if alcohol wasn’t the biggest part of your party habits. Check out this blog A Sober Girl’s Guide: Navigating Sober Curiosity in College. Afraid of what it might look like to be sober for a while? Take a look at this post for the biggest fears that get in our way. The Sober Curious Collective includes stories from those who have quit and stayed quit, those who have cut back to levels they are more comfortable with, and those unsure of where the path will take them.

Even if Sober Curiosity doesn’t describe you, cutting back on your drinking can have tremendous health benefits. If you decide you want to build up your awareness but, not necessarily change your behaviors, there are ways that you can stay safer and healthier. Keep track of your drinks Pace yourself Stop drinking before you stop thinking Alternate water or a non-alcoholic drink between each alcoholic one Stay hydrated Don’t drink on an empty stomach Avoid partying with heavier drinkers



A NOTE ABOUT QUITTING If you find that you have symptoms of withdrawal—tremors, anxiety, headache, nausea, vomiting, insomnia, sweating or even the more extreme symptoms of confusion, fast heart rate, fever, heavy sweating, hallucinations, or seizures—it is important that seek medical assistance to quit. While these symptoms only affect a small number of people who quit, they can become life threatening if not treated. Cut back from your usual amount slowly and reach out to your medical provider for assistance. For abstinence based recovery support, see the Recovery Resources guide for more information.



Other Substances If you use any substances occasionally, now is a good time to hold off and clear out. The use of many recreational drugs, particularly methamphetamine and opioids, can compromise your immune system and have cardio-pulmonary effects that COVID-19 can exploit. If you are able to take a break safely, it is likely the best choice for your health. If you are a regular user of substances and are not ready to quit, or have used the same substance regularly for a long time, it is best to get medical advice before quitting cold turkey. Here are some tips to ensure that you stay as safe as possible during this time.


SAFE DRUG USE DURING THE COVID-19 OUTBREAK Some of these are easier to do than others, and some may seem impossible depending on your current situation. Do the best you can. Reach out to friends, harm reduction, syringe service providers (SSP), and other health or social service providers to plan for what to do to so you can stay safe and take care of one another.

Make sure that you have what you need STOCK UP ON SUPPLIES. Work with your local SSP to get enough syringes and injecting equipment to last you 2 to 4 weeks. Note: Your local SSP may have syringe and supply shortages, so they may not be able to do this. STOCK UP ON DRUGS. If possible, try to stock up on your drug of choice. Be safe: Having larger amounts of drugs can be dangerous if you are stopped by police or someone desperate enough to target you for them. PREPARE FOR A DRUG SHORTAGE You might lose access to your drug of choice in an outbreak. Consider alternative drugs or medications that could help take the edge off. If facing potential opioid withdrawal, consider buying over the counter medications to make it less difficult (ibuprofen, Pepto-Bismol, Imodium). For opioid dependence, you can work with your local SSP to enroll with a local provider for buprenorphine or methadone.

Practice Safer Drug Use MINIMIZE THE NEED TO SHARE YOUR SUPPLIES. Don’t share e-cigs/cigarettes, pipes, bongs or joints, or nasal tubes such as straws. If you have to share, practice harm reduction with your supplies (wipe down the mouthpieces with an alcohol swab before sharing or use separate mouthpieces). Put used smoking, snorting, and injecting equipment in a bio bucket so people know they are used.


SAFE DRUG USE DURING THE COVID-19 OUTBREAK Keep Clean & Practice Good Hygiene KEEP YOUR SPACE CLEAN. Wipe down surfaces where you prepare drugs, before and after use, with antimicrobial wipes, alcohol (at least 70%), or bleach. Before and after handling drugs, wash your hands with soap and water, or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer, including after you purchase the drugs. Wipe down drug packages. Wipe down countertops, sinks, doorknobs, and any other surfaces that hands can touch. WASH YOUR HANDS. If you have access to clean water, wash your hands with soap for 20 seconds. (Sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice or the “ABC Song” once.) If you don’t have soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (at least 60%). Wash after every time you are around other people, such as on public transportation, after purchasing drug packages, etc. STAY CLEAR IF YOU’RE SICK. If you have symptoms or think you’re getting sick, don’t go to your local SSP. Hopefully you have enough of a stash to get through, but if not, does your SSP deliver? Are there secondary exchangers who can come by? If you have symptoms of COVID-19, get checked out by a doctor. If you have HIV or have a weakened immune system, it is particularly critical to remember to take all your medications daily.


SAFE DRUG USE DURING THE COVID-19 OUTBREAK MINIMIZE CONTACT. If you are having sex or doing sex work, COVID-19 can be transmitted by close contact like coughing, kissing, or direct contact with bodily fluids. Try to minimize close contact and ensure condom use. PREPARE YOUR DRUGS YOURSELF. Wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds with soap and water and prepare your own drugs. Keep your surfaces clean and wipe them down before and after use, with microbial wipes, alcohol (at least 70%), or bleach. If you can’t prepare your own drugs, stay with the person who is. Get them to wash their hands thoroughly, and to clean up before and after. PLAN & PREPARE FOR OVERDOSE. Emergency services might be stretched in a COVID-19 outbreak, and slow to respond to 911 calls. Load up on naloxone and fentanyl testing strips. If you are alone, experiment with using less to lower your risk of OD, and go slowly. If you are using with others, make an OD plan with them and stagger use if possible. Store a breathing mask for use in case rescue breathing is needed. STOCK UP ON MEDICATIONS. Access to prescription meds may be limited in an outbreak. Ask your medical provider about getting a full month’s supply if possible. If you take methadone/buprenorphine, ask your clinic or doctor to make a plan to prevent disruptions to your dose. Ask about their emergency plans for patients (refills over the phone, telehealth visits, etc.).

-credit: Harm Reduction Coalition, Vital Strategies, Higher Ground Harm Reduction & Reynolds Health Strategies via Futures Without Violence


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