You and Substance Use: Stuff to think about...and ways to make changes
Harm reduction strategies
In this section:
To reduce long-term health risks, never exceed weekly limits: 15 units for men and 10 units for women.
To reduce injury and other harms, never exceed daily limits and adjust your drinking according to the setting: 4 units for men and 3 units for women.
Do not drink when:
- operating vehicles or tools
- taking medicine or other drugs
- dealing with health problems
- making important decisions
- providing care to others
- before breastfeeding
The safest option during pregnancy or when planning to become pregnant is to not drink alcohol at all.
Alcohol can harm physical and mental development in young people. Delay drinking until late teens and with parental guidance.
Young people are encouraged to adopt lower daily limits: 3 units for men and 2 units for women.
Harm reduction tips
- drink in safe environments
- no more than 2 units of alcohol in any 3-hour period
- eat before or while drinking and alternate with non-alcoholic drinks
Buy less so you use less. Buying large amounts of a drug may be cheaper, but you could end up using more than you want to simply because it’s there.
Set a time limit before you start. If you choose, say, to stop drinking at 10:00 p.m., watch the time, remind yourself of your time plan, and stick to it. Have some juice ready.
Eat a meal before you start, and avoid snacking on salty foods, especially if you’re drinking. You may drink more out of thirst.
Lower your dosage and frequency. In other words, drink, smoke or inject in smaller amounts—and less often—than you do now. When it comes to alcohol, this could mean choosing light beer or other low-alcohol drinks, or alternating drinks with water or pop.
Choose the least harmful method of use. Injecting a drug carries more risk than smoking, snorting or swallowing it. (If you do inject drugs, avoid the neck area.) When it comes to cannabis, using a vaporizer or smoking a joint (with a rolled up cardboard filter) is safer than using a bong and some pipes.
Plan out some drug-free days. The fewer days in a row you use a drug, the better. If you use the drug every day, try cutting back your use to every other day, and try not using it at all for two to three days. (Make sure you have in mind other ways to spend your time and energy so you don’t end up sitting around and thinking about how you miss getting buzzed.
Use at your own speed and don’t feel pressured from others to pick up the pace.
Find someone caring and understanding to talk to when you’re struggling to stick to your reduced use plan.
Read self-help books that feature stories about people who have successfully cut down on or quit using a drug.
Put condoms in your pocket before you start using a drug, even if you’re not planning to have sex. You might change your mind.
About the author
The Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research, formerly CARBC, is a member of the BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions Information. The institute is dedicated to the study of substance use in support of community-wide efforts aimed at providing all people with access to healthier lives, whether using substances or not. For more, visit www.cisur.ca.