If you're living in Tāmaki Makaurau, we hope you and your whānau are safe and dry. Our thoughts are with everyone who has been affected, particularly those who have lost loved ones and homes.
These events can be stressful. Here are some suggestions of things to consider to keep safe and well if you're planning on using drugs.
OST (Opioid Substitution Treatment)
- If you are being prescribed methadone, Suboxone or buprenorphine as OST and cannot get to your regular pharmacy, you can ask your usual doctor or pharmacist to transfer your prescription to somewhere closer to you. You can also try contact the Auckland Opioid Treatment Service. They’re working to make sure people can access OST. As a last resort, go to a hospital pharmacy. Take photo ID with you, especially if you’re going to a different pharmacy from your usual one.
- If someone close to you is on OST and struggling to access their medication or have missed a dose, this can be a very stressful time. They may also be experiencing cravings and showing other signs of withdrawal, which might make them act in ways they usually wouldn’t. You can help by keeping calm and supporting them to access to their medication.
- If you can’t get your usual OST meds because of the flooding, there are some medications that may help you get relief from withdrawal symptoms, such as Panadol for pain, anti-nausea pills or medication to help with diarrhoea. It’s a good idea to check with a doctor or pharmacist if these are okay for you to take.
Using in different locations
In emergency situations you may be in a different location to where you would normally use drugs.
- Using the same amount of a drug in a new location can change how it affects you. Consider starting with less and seeing how you feel to reduce your risk of experiencing an overdose.
- Avoid using alone if you can or ask someone to call and check on you. Having someone around who can help you if something goes wrong can help because emergency services may take longer to get to you. We’ve got more info in this article on staying safer if you’re using alone.
- Make sure the area you are in is safe, away from any floodwater and not in or around buildings that are damaged or dangerous.
Utensils and hygeine
- If you’re someone who injects drugs, Needle Exchanges have sterile needles and syringes available. Needle exchange sites are still open, and most are operating on regular hours. Consider asking for extra equipment (if the branch allows it) to have as a backup if flooding continues. The Needle Exchange website has more info.
- There are many pharmacies that offer needle exchange services. The Needle Exchange website has a list of pharmacies in the region that you can collect equipment from.
- Floodwater and overflow can carry bacteria, chemicals and other contaminants that can make you sick. If you are using water to inject, it is safest to get sterile water from a pharmacy or needle exchange or use bottled water.
- Same goes for cleaning equipment: avoid rinsing pipes and other gear in flood water or outdoor water sources.
- Wash your hands after handling anything that has been in flood water.
- Health services are recommending any veggies in gardens that have been flooded are thrown out. This would also apply to cannabis plants that have been in contact with floodwater, which can contain bacteria, chemicals and other contaminants.
- With more contaminated water around, it is extra important to make sure you keep your injecting sites clean by using an alcohol wipe before you inject.
- If you can test your drugs at a drug checking clinic, this is the best way to ensure that your drug is what you think it is. Check out our calendar of drug checking clinics.
- If you are unable to get to a drug checking clinic you can use reagents from The Hempstore or Cosmic to test your substances. Read our article on how to use reagents. We also send out free fentanyl test kits across the country - we can send these to emergency shelters in discreet packaging if required. Order your fentanyl test kits on our Resources page.
- If you get medicinal cannabis from a ‘green fairy’, you may not be able to access your usual suppliers or they may not have cannabis available. There may be things you can do at home to ease your symptoms in the meantime.
- Try not to put yourself or others at risk if picking up drugs – don't drive through floodwater, take a phone with you, and keep an eye on the weather forecast.
If access to your usual drug supply is limited and you find yourself in withdrawal, remember to:
- Get plenty of rest and sleep.
- Try to eat to fuel your body and drink plenty of water. Food supplies are available at emergency shelters (list)
- It might be harder than usual to exercise or get your body moving at the moment. But, if you can it’s a great idea to get moving to release feel-good brain chemicals.
- Reach out and talk with friends and whānau for support. Or call the Alcohol and Drug Helpline if you’d like to seek professional support.
- Relax and do things that you enjoy to take your mind off not feeling well.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol and other drugs as these can often make you feel worse.
- Practise mindfulness and deep breathing and try writing down your thoughts and feelings.
How to support people who use drugs at this time
If you have friends or loved ones who use drugs or are experiencing addiction, here are some tips on how you can help them get through this stressful time.
- Firstly, check in on them and make sure they have everything they need. A simple phone call, or a drop-in visit (if it is safe to do so) can be a big help.
- Remember, they may be feeling stressed or physically unwell if they have limited access to drugs. Try to remain calm and supportive. If someone is going through withdrawals, consider providing items such as their favourite treats, books or blankets to keep them comfortable.
- If someone is withdrawing from alcohol, benzodiazepines or opioids, it's important to make sure someone stays with them and can get help if they become unwell.
- If you live with someone who is using opioids at this time, it is a good idea to have naloxone (a medication that quickly reverses opioid overdoses) at home in case they experience an overdose. You may be able to get Nyxoid, the nasal spray form of naloxone, from some pharmacies and needle exchange outlets. Read our article on when and how to use naloxone.
- Think about whether now is a good time to be having tough conversations around someone's drug use. Situations like this are high stress, and it may not be the right time to bring up difficult topics. Keeping someone safe and being there for them if they need to talk are the most important things to focus on in stressful times.
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