Skip to main content

Alcohol & Other Drugs

Safer Smoking: Crack and crystal meth


Author: Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research


Reduce your risk of burns, infections, disease, overdose, nutrition problems and dehydration.

You and safer smoking

Smoking any illegal drug is risky because you can never know for sure what's in it or how it was made. But there are also risks involved in how you smoke. Here are some ways to reduce those risks.

Before you start...

Know your dealer
It's best to choose someone you feel safe with and who knows about the drugs they sell.

Take vitamins or eat something
You may not feel like eating when high.

Find a buddy
Using alone means no one will be there to help you if you overdose.

Find a safe place
Being relaxed and not in a hurry makes smoking easier and therefore safer.

Bring condoms and lube with you
Stimulant drugs can increase your sex drive.

Clean your hands and your own mouthpiece
Use soap and water or alcohol swabs to wash away germs that could go in your mouth.

To reduce risk...

Start with a small amount
If you don’t know how strong the drug is, this can help reduce your risk of overdose.

Use your own mouthpiece or pipe
This will help you avoid getting or spreading infection.

Use a shatterproof Pyrex pipe
Other pipes can get too hot or give off toxic fumes.

Avoid using broken or cracked pipes
Damaged pipes can lead to burns, cuts and infections.

Drink water, use lip balm and chew gum
These things will help keep your mouth moist and reduce cracks, blisters and risk of infection.

When preparing to smoke meth...

Make sure the drug is in the right part of the pipe bowl
If necessary, tap pipe gently.

Avoid burning your fingers
Hold the pipe halfway down the stem.

Apply heat to the bowl
Keep the heat source moving around until smoke fills the pipe (so the bowl won’t crack).

When preparing to smoke crack...

Use screens instead of Brillo (steel wool)
Brillo can break apart and be inhaled, and its coating can make you sick.

Pack five screens into your pipe
This is safest. If you prefer, it's okay to wrap the brass screens completely around the Brillo and use them together as a screen.

Use a wooden push stick
Wood is less likely than metal to damage the pipe.

When smoking...

Inhale slowly
This will help prevent burning your lungs.

Exhale immediately
Holding it in doesn't make the effects stronger—it only hurts the lungs more.

Handle the pipe with care
It'll be hot after using it.

Signs of overdose

Feels like:

  • heart is pumping fast
  • short of breath
  • hot, sweaty and shaky
  • chest pain
  • nausea
  • faintness

Looks like:

  • fast or no pulse
  • fast or no breathing
  • hot and sweaty skin
  • confusion, anxiety
  • unconscious
  • vomiting
  • seizures

If someone ODs…

It is important to recognize the early symptoms of an overdose and seek medical assistance.

  • Try to walk the person around, keep them awake

  • Roll the person on their side (if unconscious)

  • Call out for help—do not leave the person

  • Call (or get someone else to call) 911

  • Tell paramedics as much as you can

Safer smoking products

Contact the health unit in your community for information about obtaining alcohol swabs, mouthpieces and push sticks. Visit HealthLink BC for locations,

Getting help

Self-help tools:


Alcohol and Drug Information and Referral Service:

  • 1-800-663-1441 (BC)
  • 604-660-9382 (Greater Vancouver)


About the author

cisur logo

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


Stay Connected

Sign up for our various e-newsletters featuring mental health and substance use resources.