Harm Reduction isn’t just for festivals - it’s a year-round movement. Harm reduction means learning about new ways to keep yourself and your friends safe. It includes things like words, life hacks and government policies that help reduce the stigma, risks and harms that come from potentially risky activities like partying or having sex. Harm reduction means looking out for our own well-being and doing what we can to create a healthy and safe community for everyone.
As we approach one of the biggest party nights of the year, the Bass Coast harm reduction team has some suggestions for safer partying and keeping you and your loved ones happy and healthy this New Year’s Eve and into 2017. Check out our New Year’s Eve harm reduction tip timeline and share it with your friends.
3pm: Get prepared
Think about what you will need so you don’t start 2017 off worried about replacing your ID and trying to find your phone. Keys, cash, ID (and a zippered place to store it), safer sex supplies, water bottle, a charged phone, comfy shoes and a warm coat are essential items for a good night out.
4pm: Do your research
We don’t promote or condemn substance use. But we know that some people indulge, despite the risks. Knowledge is power. The more you can learn about what you and your friends are doing, the better equipped you are to deal with challenging situations. Alcohol, prescription or recreational drugs, tobacco - NO SUBSTANCE USE COMES WITHOUT RISKS - and things seem particularly risky right now in Western Canada. Fentanyl, a strong prescription opioid, is showing up in substances where it is not expected to be.
If you use recreational drugs or if you're going to a gathering where people might be using, try to have Naloxone on hand. Naloxone is a medication that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. If you're in BC, find a list of agencies distributing free take-home Naloxone kits here. If you're in Alberta, you can pick up a Naloxone kit for free at these participating pharmacies.
5pm: Learn to spot an overdose
We need to look out for one another. Even folks who don't use alcohol or drugs should be able to recognise when something isn’t right. No matter what event you're at, it helps to be aware of what an overdose looks like.
Some signs of an opioid overdose are:
Awake but cannot speak
Blue lips or fingernails
Gurgling, raspy breath
If you encounter a person with any of these symptoms, use your best judgement and call 911 if you think the person is having an overdose.
Get some food in that tummy. If you party on an empty stomach, you may not be feeling so great by the time midnight rolls around.
As Crystal Precious once said, water is life force. If your evening involves dancing all night or getting sweaty in an after-hours venue, try and bring your own water bottle. If you're throwing an event, offer free water at the bar. If it's not just water in your bottle, make that obvious by colouring the liquid with food colouring, writing on the bottle AND telling people what's in the bottle if they ask for a drink.
Take breaks from dancing and cool down throughout the night by drinking water and going to pee regularly.
8pm: Protect your hearing
If you're going to an event with loud music, put earplugs in your bag or pocket right now.
10pm: Be in the moment
Take a look around you. Maybe you're at a live show, a house party, a full-on rave or a dance cave somewhere. Tell your friends you love them, and be a total dork about it if you need to. Notice how dance floors are the most fun when shared with a variety of bodies and a gradient of faces and wheelchairs and queens and grandpas, old and new friends and strangers and where everyone feels safe and celebrated. Think about fighting for spaces like this and moments like these all year round. Leave the dance floor better than you found it, pick up after yourself, be nice to the staff (tip if you have the means) be chill in the smoking area and leave in peace, because being loud is heat score.
11pm: Be patient
Not giving a substance enough time to take effect is common factor in substance-related medical emergencies. Some people might not feel effects immediately and then take more, which can result in mild to serious medical distress or an overdose. Many variables influence how quickly you will feel the effects of something, including the route into your body, the food in your belly and what else is in your system.
12pm: Respect people's boundaries
Is the kiss at midnight still a thing? If it's your thing, just make sure it’s done with consent. Respect people’s boundaries. If you see someone being a creep, alert event staff or use one of these handy intervention strategies. Slut shaming and body shaming doesn’t belong anywhere. If throw events, learn how to make your space one where women, femme, trans and non-binary folks are safe and celebrated.
1am: Don’t leave anyone to sleep it off
Not every overdose happens instantly. Some set in over the course of hours, as a person’s body slowly shuts down and breathing becomes more laboured or as substances overwhelm normal body functions. If someone is in really rough shape, putting them to bed might not be safe. If you have reason be concerned that someone is in medical trouble, call 911. It is not illegal to be on drugs and it’s always better to err on the side of caution.
If you are concerned about someone, but it’s not an emergency, lay them on their side and make cozy in room where someone can keep an eye on them.
2am: Get home safe
Remember that most public transit is free tonight. If you are in Vancouver and see anything kind of sketchy on the train or bus, you can get help by texting 87 77 77. GNO Safe Walk (also in Vancouver) can help you find other folks headed your way, so you don’t have to go it alone. DO NOT DRIVE while under the influence of anything. Try and avoid putting people in cabs and hoping for the best - Consider sharing a cab, even if people aren’t on the way. The night isn’t truly over until we know everyone got to their final destination and sends that “Home safe! Night <3” group text.
3am and beyond: Take care of yourself
Drink some water, have a snack, get some sleep. Surround yourself in what makes you feel the safest. We live in trying times where nights like tonight remind us that human connection and self-care are valuable currency. Make plans for tomorrow with a book, art, nature or someone you love.
By Stacey Forrester, Bass Coast Festival harm reduction manager
Follow Bass Coast Harm Reduction on Twitter.
For an uncensored and expanded .pdf version of this, visit Stacey's website.