Safer Use Tips

What is harm reduction?
The ‘Harm Reduction International’ organisation defines harm reduction as “policies, programmes, and practices that aim primarily to reduce the adverse health, social and economic consequences of the use of legal and illegal psychoactive drugs without necessarily reducing drug consumption”. So in short, these are measures to help people who use drugs to reduce the chances of possible harms as a result of drug use.

What can I do to reduce risks?
Consumption of drugs always brings certain risks, especially in the case of untested and unresearched NPS. But there are things you can do to reduce the chances of having unwanted consequences of your NPS use. Below, some important points are listed. More useful tips can be found on the website of American harm reduction organisation ‘DanceSafe’.

In general, it is important to be prepared:
Know what you consume (and how much)
Don’t be alone and take care of others
Know what to do in case of feeling unwell, and where to find help in case of emergencies

You cannot be legally punished for having consumed drugs, or for getting help for someone who has problems after consuming drugs. Therefore, never hesitate to seek (medical) help in case of emergencies!


Laboratory testing

Some countries in Europe offer the possibility to have your drugs legally tested by a laboratory. This can be done anonymously and for a small fee (or in some cases free of charge). You need to bring by or send the substance you bought, and may need to wait a couple of weeks to receive results. Laboratory test results can show you the quantities of active ingredients in your product. You will know exactly which substances (including NPS) your product contains, and you can receive personal advice on the possible consequences of consumption. This way, you can make an informed decision, but bear in mind that risks will always remain. Sometimes, ‘onsite’ drug checking services are offered at events. The testing here, however, is less thorough than laboratory tests, but it also allows you to get direct advice from professionals.

To check if and where off-site and/or on-site drug testing services are available in your country, please check your country’s webpage through this website by clicking the national language in the menu. (The Spanish harm reduction organisation ‘Energy Control’ offers an international drug checking service.

Test kits

Using a test kit at home can be an option. These can be bought online in certain webshops and through certain organisations. You will be able to see whether some specific (mostly ‘traditional’) drugs are present in your product. A difficulty is that the test kit can only verify the presence of a limited number of drugs. It will not be possible to accurately detect all possible substances (including harmful NPS). Check for instance this informative video on this problem by the Global Drug Survey. Also, a test kit cannot tell you the dosage of the active ingredients (the psychoactive substances). Consuming a dosage that turns out to be too high puts you at serious heightened risk of a range of negative (health) consequences.

Online databases

Some websites exist that report on tested drugs, so that you can look up your product in an online database. Examples are ‘Pill Reports’ and ‘Ecstasy Data‘, where test results for pills sold as ecstasy can be found. But, you will need to rely solely on the outer look of your product! It cannot be verified whether for a pill you bought that has the same colour and logo as a pill in one of the databases actually contains the same ingredients and/or dosages. So, great caution is required. Recently, an app has been made available through which you can search a large international database for many psychoactive drugs.

Take care of friends

When you have decided to consume an NPS, it is wise to make sure you do not consume alone. You can never know beforehand how you may react to a drug, especially an NPS. You may want to consider having someone present who stays sober (also known as a ‘tripsitter’). In case there are any negative effects, this person could help you calm down and/or make sure you do not carry out dangerous behaviours while under influence. In either case, make sure someone else knows what you are consuming. In case of emergencies, this person could correctly inform medical staff. When for instance at an event with friends, make sure to keep an eye on each other, and seek help for yourself and others in case of feeling unwell after drug use*. For more information on what you can do in case of an emergency following drug use, check these clear and extensive tips (in English) by UK organisation ‘Talk to Frank’.

Do not mix substances

It is generally inadvisable to consume several drugs at once. There is very little scientific research and evidence on possible negative consequences of such poly-drug use. It is very hard to tell what the consequences of mixing certain substances may be. Especially for NPS, it will be difficult to tell how much active ingredient you are consuming, and which substances may already be mixed in one product. Poly-drug use very likely heightens the chances of experiencing negative / unexpected consequences from use.

When at an event..

When at an event, such as a summer festival or in a (crowded) club, make sure you drink sufficient amounts of fluids to stay dehydrated. Drinking too much water, however, can be dangerous! To find out why, check out the short video clip to the left by Dutch peer organisation ‘Unity’. Also, it is important to take regular breaks from partying, to (literally) cool off and relax. Events often offer ‘chill out rooms’ for this. These practices are important since many drugs will heighten your body temperature, which increases risks of negative health consequences. Lastly, make sure you know where to find the emergency services when necessary for yourself or friends in case of feeling unwell. For more extensive advice, check out this English-language webpage by UK harm reduction organisation ‘Crew2000’.