Reduce your risk of burns, infections, disease, overdose, nutrition problems and dehydration
On this page:
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.
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.
Did you know...?
Eating when you're coming down will help you sleep.
heart is pumping fast
short of breath
hot, sweaty and shaky
fast or no pulse
fast or no breathing
hot and sweaty skin
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
If the person is unconscious, use naloxone if you have it. The drug may contain fentanyl or other opioids
Contact the health unit in your community for information about obtaining alcohol swabs, mouthpieces and push sticks. Visit HealthLink BC for locations, www.healthlinkbc.ca.
Alcohol and Drug Information and Referral Service:
604-660-9382 (Greater Vancouver)
About the author
The Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research, formerly CARBC, is a member of the BC Partners for Mental Health and Substance Use 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.