Skip to main content

Safer drug taking

There are many different ways to get a drug into the body – from swallowing to slamming. How you take it affects how quickly, and strongly, you feel it. It can also influence how likely you are to get addicted to it. Smoking and injecting drugs cause the biggest concentration of chems in the blood in a very short amount of time. This gives the fastest, strongest hit and a greater chance you will become addicted.

Chems can affect the health of various parts of your body as well, from raw noses to sore arses, and can potentially leave you more susceptible to getting STIs.


  • Know your dealer – always buy your drugs from someone you trust and who knows what they’re selling.
  • Don’t be alone – if you overdose or have a bad experience, you’ll need help.
  • Bad batches happen – try a small sample of a new batch first to avoid overdosing.
  • Have condoms and lube with you – stimulants can make you horny.
  • If you have unprotected sex when on drugs, think about taking PrEP.
  • If you’ve fucked without a condom in the last 72 hours and think you might’ve been at risk of HIV, then consider getting PEP.


Swallowing drugs in drinks or food can mean you have less control over the amount taken, but you avoid much of the damage caused by taking a drug in other ways, such as through the nose, lungs or veins.

Swallowing drugs can hurt the mouth or throat. For example, you can get chemical burns from drinking GHB/GBL that hasn’t been diluted with a drink.

Never drink poppers, diluted or not.

To protect your digestive system from irritation when swallowing drugs:

  • dissolve your drugs in a small amount of warm water, or
  • wrap the drugs in rolling paper before swallowing.


Snorting gives a quicker, stronger hit than swallowing.

When snorting drugs using shared equipment, microscopic amounts of blood can pass from one irritated or raw nose to another. Hepatitis C can spread when people share objects used for snorting such as rolled up banknotes, straws or ‘bullets’.

Avoid sharing anything used for snorting. Avoid banknotes as they may have been used for snorting before and could be contaminated. Post-it notes or coloured drinking straws are a safe alternative – make sure to use a fresh one for each person.

After snorting, rinse what’s left of the drug out the nostril to cut the risk of it damaging the inside of your nose. You can do this with sterile water or a salt-water nasal spray.

Remember to alternate the nostrils when snorting a lot of drugs.


If someone has a cold sore on their lip, sharing joints, pipes, bongs or cigarettes can spread the herpes virus. The same goes for syphilis if they have a chancre sore on their lips or in their mouth.

The main risk of infection from hepatitis C or HIV comes when pipes are shared to smoke crack. Infected blood from broken or bleeding lips and mouths can get on the pipe and be passed to someone else if they also have broken or bleeding lips.

When smoking from aluminium foil, the edges can cut through the skin leaving trace amounts of the virus that can then be passed on. Hot foil can also cause nasty burns.

  • Protect your lips by wrapping a rubber band around the end of the pipe, and avoid sharing pipes and aluminium foil.
  • Smoking from bongs filled with cold water makes smoking safer as it cools down the smoke and gets rid of some impurities.
  • Invest in a vapouriser – vapourising drugs at high temperatures is safer, as the vapour contains fewer impurities than smoke and is easier on your lungs.
  • Inhale slowly to shield your lungs from the hot smoke.
  • Use a shatterproof Pyrex pipe – other pipes can burn your skin and leech toxins.

Taking drugs up the arse

Some drugs such as GBL are so caustic (GBL can melt some plastics) that you should not attempt to booty bump them, as the lining of your arse is too delicate and it could cause serious damage.

If you’re going to put a drug up your arse, dissolving it in water and squirting it in with a fresh needleless syringe can reduce the chances of it burning or damaging the lining of your arse.

However, sharing a needleless syringe once it’s been inside someone else’s arse has a risk of passing STIs like gonorrhoea or hep C between men, particularly if the lining of their arse has been damaged by arse play or drugs. Dabbing drugs into more then one arse without cleaning the finger could also spread infections.

Never share needleless syringes.

A clean one for each arse is needed, but if you find yourself in a situation where you know you’ll share one, the syringe should be thoroughly cleaned with boiling water each time it’s used on a new person – this doesn’t guarantee complete safety though.

As with any arse play, infections like shigella or hepatitis A can transfer in tiny pieces of shit. Making sure you thoroughly clean hands and toys can help reduce the chances.


Injecting is the most dangerous way of taking drugs. It carries risks that don’t exist – or are much lower – if you smoke or snort the drug. Those risks include:

  • overdose
  • picking up serious infections like HIV and hepatitis C
  • blood poisoning
  • collapsed veins
  • abscesses
  • blood clots/deep vein thrombosis
  • becoming psychologically dependent on the ritual of injecting.

Injecting drugs or steroids can also mean sharing equipment such as needles, syringes, spoons, water, filters and swabs. It’s the most efficient way of spreading infections carried in blood such as HIV and hepatitis B and C, and sometimes traces of blood may be too small to see.

Learn the difference between a vein and an artery – injecting into an artery can kill. Arteries are deeper and harder to find than veins, but they sit very close together.

Arteries and veins

  • If you hit an artery, the blood will be brighter and will spurt rather than ooze.
  • It’ll be harder and more painful to inject your drugs, and the plunger will probably be forced back. It may contain frothy blood.
  • It you think you’ve hit an artery, pull out straight away and apply firm pressure to the injection site.
  • If the bleeding continues for more than five minutes, seek medical help at A&E, an NHS Walk-in Centre or a GP surgery. If you’re losing blood fast, call 999.

Use a new needle if you fail to find a vein straight away. To reduce the risk of collapsed veins avoid injecting into the same area.

Avoid injecting into veins in your hand – they’re too small to handle it and could collapse.

Collapsed veins may never recover. Injecting below the waist can cause serious circulation problems if a vein is damaged. Never inject into a site that’s sore or swollen as this area may be infected or the vein may be blocked.

Get to a doctor if an injection site is swollen for more than a few days, if it’s red, hot or tender or if there’s any serious bleeding, the skin changes colour, is sore or weeps.

Last review: 12/11/2018
Next review: 12/11/2021