Harm reduction, at its base layer, is a philosophy of public health with the intention of creating progressive lifestyle choices that could otherwise be prohibitive or damaging to ones psyche and body.
The central pillar of this philosophy stems from the recognition that humans will always engage in risky behaviors such as illicit drug use and casual sex. Ultimately harm reduction aims to reduce any potential harm that may come with these behaviors without denying, inhibiting, or criminalizing said behaviors. In turn this will only lead to more harm.
Critics of the philosophy often state that it condones and even facilitates behaviors seen by some as immoral, dangerous, or socially destabilizing. For this reason, harm reduction has been very controversial in the United States, but less so in Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
Harm reduction initiatives have a wide range, most commonly experienced as designated driver campaigns, condom initiatives on college campuses, or anti-tobacco campaigns that focus on the negative health outcomes and long term consequences that can stem from uninformed and uneducated decisions. On more “extreme” side of the harm reduction spectrum are methodone clinics, access to clean and safe needles, and decriminalizations of narcotic and psychedelic substances.
1. The Basics Of Harm Reduction
- Personal education on the effects, undesired effects, and legality of substances one may be thinking of ingesting.
- Always measure dosages on a calibrated scale, while mitigating all risks of an overdose.
- When available, use a testing kit with any substances being consumed to determine purity.
- Following general guidelines when being inebriated such as not operating heavy machinery or driving a car on the road.
- Having a trip sitter or individuals experienced with a substance that one may be taking for the first time.
- Never peer pressuring or dosing a non-consenting individual.
- Never use substances to avoid responsibilities or difficulties in life.
- Screen your sources thoroughly and ensure that they are of good moral standing.
2. Know Your Dose
Dosing is absolutely everything when it comes to taking recreational substances. Always remember, you can always take more later, but you can never take any less.
No matter how well one has prepared their mind set, setting, and body for an experience, taking too large of a dose will always results in undesired consequences. However, starting with too low of a dose can make the user feel uncomfortable and frustrated, which may promote reckless behaviors such as re-dosing multiple times and increasing the risk of a cumulative overdose.
When choosing a dose, the user should avoid doses which they are uncomfortable or unfamiliar with. An inexperienced user should always start in the lower end of the dose range, with the goal of working their way up in small increments until they are familiar with the behavior of the substance.
Doses should always be adjusted upward with slight increases (e.g. 1/4 to 1/2 of the previous dose). Large, erratic increases (e.g. 2x or 3x the previous dose) should be strictly avoided. It is important to note that many substances do not have linear dose-response curves, meaning that doubling the dose amount will cause a greater than double increase (and rapidly result in overwhelming, unpleasant, and potentially dangerous experiences). Following this rule will significantly minimize the risk of a negative experience.
It is vital to remember that everybody reacts differently to every substance depending on factors such as their own personal tolerance, body weight, metabolism, and personal sensitivity. Another factor to consider is substance purity which is likely to differ between different vendors and batches of product.
3. Don’t Eyeball It
Measuring out your substance by eye. regardless of your experience, is always a highly inaccurate and unreliable method of measuring substances. It is almost impossible for the naked eye to discern the difference between 10 to 30 milligrams of a substance. With highly potent compounds this can easily result in an overdose and death.
Eye balling comes in many forms and can range from dipping a fingernail or key into the powdered subtance to using preset spoon sizes or “bullets”.
Always double check pre-weighed substances or capsules given to you by your vendor/dealer. Individuals should never trust that any substance weighs a certain amount, as the wrong amount can be given accidentally or intentionally, resulting in overdoses for some users.
To avoid overdoses or improper dosing, invest in a proper digital milligram scale or jewelry scale. Always use it on a flat, stable surface for the most reliable results. Of course, scales are never completely reliable either as there will typically be up to a 5 milligram difference in the weight registered by the scale, especially at much lower quantities. When the substancve reaches about 50 milligrams of weight the scale becomes much more reliable.
4. Get A Testing Kit
After purchasing your desired substance and before ingesting your pre-measured dose, one should always try their best to confirm the chemical content of that substance. If substances are adulterated they could, of course, have serious negative consequences.
Investing in reagent test kits, such as those provided by Dance Safe or Drug Confirm, will provide the ability to test chemicals at home as they come with their own reference guides that can be compared to results online.
Most kits come with an infographic, testing guide, and multiple reagents that will screen most common recreational substances that people choose to ingest.
Test kitting has become particularly important as overseas chemical manufacturers have become involved in producing and selling research chemicals (2CB, 2CI, etc.), that will often have toxic impurities or be completely mislabeled.
5. Set & Setting
The set as it is most often called, refers to one mental and emotional state when ingesting a psychedelic or entering into a profound state of healing. It is always recommended that one has done work to set an intention, clear the mind of clutter, release heavy and stagnant emotions before entering into a deep journey. Although challenges may arise during a psychedelic experience, doing so is much easier to deal with if the baggage of our daily lives does not also have to be worked through to enter the deeper parts of our psyche to experience true healing.
The setting refers to the immediate and extended environment that one may be experiencing a journey in. The setting plays a huge role in the level of comfort, freedom, and depth of one’s journey.
Depending on the dose some individuals may feel more comfortable with their first experience being outside far away from others in the safety of freedom, while for others a deep journey may best be experienced in a safe, friendly, indoor environment that is clear of clutter and has been intentionally curated for relaxation and enjoyment.
Before entering in a journey it is typically recommended that one has no prior responsibilities the day of and the day after while avoiding any unfamiliar environment or individuals who are not in the same mindset. Loud disturbing noises and awkward interactions can greatly, negatively impact one’s experience.
6. Find A Trip Sitter
A trip sitter is always recommended when ingesting mind-altering substances, especially if it is one’s first time or there is general inexperience amongst the group.
Trip sitters bring a calm and grounded balance to a rather, discombobulated experience, rooting any intense experience with reminders and gentle guidance. There are various styles to trip sitting. Some may prefer to curate an experience to allow for deeper healing and meaningful experiences to occur while others may choose a more detached approach where they observe and gently reassure when anxiety and stress may arise.
Good trip sitters must be able to be fully responsible and experienced with the drugs that are being ingested as well as knowledge on non-violent communication and crisis management if trouble was to arise. Trippers may require assistance at some points when needing fluids or even going to the bathroom, even just moving about if one so desires.
The trip sitter can participate in the conversation, but should also remember to give the trippers space to explore the experience without too much external influence. Once the users become experienced with a substance, it becomes their personal choice as to whether they may need a trip sitter or not.
7. Know Your Anchors
Anchors are meant to keep boats from drifting at sea and in the context of psychedelic substances they can be an activity, phrase, or object that keep the user grounded during great moments of cognitive, visual, and emotional distortion.
Anchors during psychedelic trips allow us to stay centered and connected to our true selves while taking in a truly awesome experience that can often deeply impact our internal and external relationships.
Some people may choose a more literal sense and write the phrase “you are on drugs” on a window or large sign which can keep one grounded during intense trips. You took these substances for a reason and this is the experience, there is no need to resist it.
Anchors That We Love To Rely On
- Some familiar, upbeat, and melodic music with uplifting vibes. Individuals are encouraged to curate playlists while sober that can be mindlessly left to play while going deep into an experience.
- An object such as a teddy bear, toy, or photo that is near and dear to one’s heart.
- A beautiful mantra or chant that one can recite.
- Visual reminders that “everything, is beautiful”, “this is LSD” can literally be written out to anchor the subconscious.
- A special piece of clothing or an accessory that is only worn during psychedelic experiences.
8. Avoid Drug Combinations
Mixing and matching substances often sounds like a fun idea, but can easily result in extremely detrimental effects for the body including kidney, liver, and heart damage as well as fatality.
All substances activate or inhibit certain liver detoxification pathways that can greatly increase the risk of overdose or toxicity of many common drug combinations. This risk is greatly increased if individuals take any types of pharmaceutical agents, most importantly anti-depressants. and anti-psychotics. Overdose and death are the absolute last thing anyone taking a psychedelic should ever have to be witness to, let alone be the victim of.
We always recommend taking great care and being fully conscious of what one is ingesting.
Below is a drug combination chart by Tripsit which is a great guide to follow when thinking of ingesting multiple substances throughout one night.
Harm reduction can be a somewhat dry topic and a buzzkill to most people who just want to enjoy themselves and have some fun. Yet, medicine and true healing are never something to take lightly.
These agents deserve great reverence and respect and therefore we must treat these experiences with great care to keep them sacred, for ourselves and others.
There are but few greater journeys in the world than that of the journey deep into one’s own being.
We truly wish you a safe one!