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Harm Reduction

For immediate information about drug or alcohol treatment options, dial 988.

What is Harm Reduction?

Harm reduction seeks to reduce negative or fatal consequences associated with drug use, drug policies and drug-related stigma and discrimination. 

Goals of harm reduction:

  • Ensure that people who use drugs have access to compassionate, quality care that is free from stigma
  • Provide comprehensive and community-based services 
  • Make sure that trauma, criminal or legal involvement, and racism do not determine one’s health outcomes or quality of life

Select Harm Reduction Resources Available in Maryland:

The list below contains several harm reduction strategies, although it does not include all harm reduction resources available in Maryland. Visit your local health department or the Center for Harm Reduction Services for more information. 

Naloxone

Naloxone is a life-saving medication that can quickly restore the breathing of a person experiencing an opioid overdose. Naloxone has no abuse potential, minimal risk, and will not have an effect on someone who has not used opioids. Anyone can learn how to use naloxone with minimal training. Maryland law protects individuals from liability when using naloxone to respond to an overdose in a medical emergency. Visit the Center for Harm Reduction Services website to learn how to receive training and access naloxone from one of Maryland’s Overdose Response Programs or pharmacies.

Fentanyl Test Strips 

Fentanyl test strips can be used to quickly check for the presence of fentanyl in drugs, which can help people make safer choices. Learn how to use fentanyl test strips or find a local program that distributes fentanyl test strips by visiting the Maryland Overdose Response program webpage. For help locating test strips, email mdh.naloxone@maryland.gov.

Syringe Service​s Progra​ms

Syringe service programs provide a wide range of services to help people who use drugs, including infectious disease prevention and overdose prevention. There are multiple approved syringe service programs in Maryland that provide access to:

  • Overdose education and naloxone distribution
  • Substance use disorder counseling, treatment and recovery services
  • HIV, hepatitis C and sexually transmitted infections testing and linkage to care
  • Reproductive health education and services
  • Wound care
  • Safer use supply distribution and collection

Visit the Center for Harm Reduction Services website to learn more about services, hours and locations.

Wound Care

Wounds and infections may be common among people who use and inject drugs. This video from the Daniel Carl Torsch Foundation offers information about preventing and treating infections and injuries.

Overdose Risk Reduction

There are strategies to reduce the risk of overdose for people who use drugs, including from the National Harm Reduction Coalition. Some potentially life-savings strategies include the following: 

  • Start low and go slow
    Use a little bit first to see how strong your drugs are. This is especially important if you’re using a new product, were recently abstinent, or if you’ve been sick. 
  • Don’t use alone
    Have an overdose plan in place with your friends or partners. Ask someone to check on you. If you overdose, it’s important to have help nearby. Call the Never Use Alone hotline at 800-484-3731. Let someone know where you are and leave doors unlocked. 
  • Always have naloxone available
    Leave naloxone out in the open in case of overdose.
  • Reduce risks when mixing drugs
    Avoid mixing opioids with alcohol or benzos. Reduce the amount of each drug you are taking. 
  • Consider how you are ingesting your drug(s)
    Injection is the highest overdose risk route – snorting still carries risk but may make it easier to control intake. 
  • Care for your overall health
    People with certain health factors have an increased risk of overdosing. If possible, try to eat, drink water, and see a healthcare provider to help you manage other health conditions and screen for health factors that might increase your risk of overdose. 

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