SARS-COV-2 is an extraordinary virus that requires extraordinary measures. The associated COVID-19 disease is extremely dangerous and can be lethal. As a community we must try to do our best to reduce COVID-19 cases by protecting ourselves and others.

Wearing face masks, better hygiene practice, regular washing of hands and physical distancing should be considered key harm reduction and risk minimisation practices. A number of other useful behaviours which should be adopted can be found here. Following these behaviours and pratices will protect you and everyone else. The virus could result in a multitude of different issues  for people who use drugs (PWUD) some of which are discussed here:   EMCDDA’s briefing;  Ian Hamilton’s article; TheAlliance Forum.

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The above resource was produced by our partners the European Network of People who Use Drugs (EuroNPUD) and the International Network of People who Use Drugs (INPUD). The resource is available in a number of languages which can be accessed here:

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/rkkygep6g0p6jwe/AAAfAvY5VnUn2qA0tRvXUWgLa?dl=0.

INPUD and their colleagues Talking Drugs and Drug Policy Network South East Europe have also translated other COVID-19 specific resources (developed by Russell Newcombe and Cheryl White of 3D Research) into the following languages:

French | Spanish | Portuguese | Polish | Italian | Russian | Serbian | Georgian | Romanian

Please share these resources with your peers. INPUD have also catalogued a range of other resources here:

https://www.inpud.net/en/covid-19-crisis-harm-reduction-resources-people-who-use-drugs.

Many of Youth RISE’s members enjoy a good rave, party or smoke in. Socialising often comes hand-in-hand with using drugs and is a fundamental part of our culture. Physical socialising, however, currently puts us at considerable risk of SARS-COV-2 and we strongly discourage it wherever possible. We need to realize that physical distancing is one of the most important harm reduction measures we can possibly take at this time and we encourage everyone to do this as possible. Physical distancing will help us ‘flatten the curve’ which means that less people will get sick with COVID-19 over a longer period of time. This will reduce the pressure on our health systems. However, it is important not to reinforce social stigmas whilst physical distancing as this is both uncool and can perpetuate the disease. 

Source: Shutterstock

Physical distancing can be incredibly isolating for both you and your peers but we can learn from the experiences of  polar explorers, astronauts and sailors who have to practice long periods away from other people. Learning from these experiences may help you psychonauts to also become ‘homenauts’ for a short period of time. Learn more about becoming a ‘homenaut’ here:

We strongly encourage you to use digital solutions if this is possible for you. Try having a party with each other using the HouseParty app (which also allows you to play games virtually), or smoke joints with your friends whilst watching Netflix virtually (two seven allows you to do this). A great resource for helping you manage online digital groups can be found here:

http://www.leadinggroupsonline.org/ebooks/Leading%20Groups%20Online.pdf.

Self-care is incredibly important now. Try to eat well, exercise, sleep well and consider trying some relaxation techniques if this works for you. Try only checking the news once a day. It is not helpful to worry about the news. There are things you can change and things you can’t. Change the ones you can (e.g. washing hands regularly, observing physical distancing) and try not to worry about things you can’t control. Try to take your mind off these things by taking a free course on Coursera or EdEx or maybe learn how to power search Google by taking Google’s Search Education or learn how to code on CodeAcademy. Or maybe you would like to volunteer to help Youth RISE translate our website into your local language by signing up here. A range of other resources for digital past-times can be found here:

https://covid19.shanehastings.eu/giveback/#health.

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Sharing is an integral part of our drug using culture. Whether sharing cigarettes, spliffs, cans, powders, tabs, pills or more exotic preparations. Not sharing drugs is generally frowned upon. Today, we must stop sharing. This is not being selfish but practicing harm reduction. This includes cigarettes, spliffs, bongs, pipes, cans, bottles and virtually anything that can be used to consume drugs. The crisis may be a good opportunity to change our consumption behaviours (for example, no one should use notes to snort drugs or share snorters). 

You may experience periods of high sexual arousal and that is natural. Having sex is fun and healthy (See: Covid Specific Sex guidance). We encourage having protected and consensual sex at home as a healthy past time. Try to remember condoms, dental dams, lubricant and other sexual health products when out on your minimal visits to the grocery store. However, avoid physically hooking up with new sexual partners outside of your home through dating apps in this time of emergency. Doing so will increase your risk of COVID-19. Check out HIV Scotland’s Sex, COVID-19 and social distancing resource. This crisis may be an opportune moment to learn about tantra and building up sexual energy. Alternatively, now could also be a good time to learn better masturbation techniques (See: Planned Parenthood general tips and Healthline’s  vagina and penis advice). Note: PornHub Premium has become free in response to the pandemic.

You will be physically isolated as will your peers. You will all also have to deal with the tense atmosphere associated with this pandemic. This can be stressful. If you are feeling that you have some mental health difficulties check if these professional mental health volunteers can help or see if the Mental Health During Corona Facebook group can help you connect you with a mental health professional.

Try to stay connected with your peers as much as possible whether through social media, telephone, Whatsapp , Skype, Signal or other digital solutions where possible. You are each other’s support network.

Stay safe, practice harm reduction and we’ll party together when it calms down again. We leave you with some wise words from Irish president Michael D. Higgins’ poem ‘Take Care’.

Yours Truly,

Youth RISE Team

If you have any suggestions for this article (including better links or resources) please let us know: info@youthrise.org.