Interested in learning more about implementing harm reduction practices before your next rave? Read on below to learn about some essential resources!
We’ve written a few posts on harm reduction in the past, and while we’ve got a few more in the pipeline, I thought it would be a good idea to get some resources all in one place. Thanks to the RAVE Act and prejudices left over from the War on Drugs, there are few large-scale harm reduction services that operate in the mainstream. Below you’ll find an organization that keeps people safe at raves, an encyclopedia with an endless amount of information on drugs and their combinations, and a few life-savers that will help you get prepared.
First, however, for those who are unaware: what exactly is harm reduction? Harm reduction is a rejection of the philosophy championed by the War on Drugs that possession and use of an illegal substance should be met with swift, extended, and life-altering punishments. Amongst harm reduction advocates, there is a growing belief that jail time has no effect on addiction or rehabilitation and that honest education about drugs and their dangers will lead to a safer scene.
Harm reduction recognizes that people may do illegal, dangerous things, and seeks to minimize the risk and harm done by them. Instead of judging people for their choices, harm reduction is all about providing facts on drugs and their interactions so that users can make informed decisions about their health and the health of their friends.
DanceSafe is the first place you should stop when learning about harm reduction.
An organization dedicated to “promoting health and safety within the electronic music community,” DanceSafe’s website is a treasure trove of articles that will help you stay healthy and safe through any rave.
Their articles are split into two categories: “Drug Info,” and “Health & Safety.” The former goes through each drug step-by-step, identifying what it is, what it does, what’s the correct dosage, and what are some health risks to look out for. They also have an extremely in-depth scientific analysis of what happens to your brain when you take MDMA if you’re ever interested in that.
Another big portion of the website is dedicated to health and safety tips. While the majority of the sections here cover well-trodden ground, there are a few that stand out as must-reads. Their article on “Women and Drug Use” offers great and specific advice to an under-represented community, and their “Risk Assessment” article about weighing the risks associated with taking illegal drugs versus the reward is a must-read for anyone considering taking drugs.
Since DanceSafe is an organization, you can also train to be a volunteer who works at raves and educates those that pass by your booth.
When I attended Frosty Loops 3 in an extremely sketchy San Bernardino lodge, DanceSafe was there in the corner handing out drug info cards and answering any questions we had. Be warned, though: their training process is no joke, taking the form of a multi-lesson class with everything from long slideshows to lengthy tests.
(Another section of the website is dedicated to drug checking and testing, but I’ll talk about that more below.)
If you’re interested in how drugs affect people differently, Erowid is invaluable.
Erowid is one of the best harm reduction and drug education sites on the Internet. It acts as a massive library for every fact you could want about drugs, offering an exhaustively detailed list of effects, laws, and chemistry for each of the hundreds of substances on file. Its encyclopedic knowledge doesn’t end with the raw data; some of the most valuable information offered are the user-submitted “experiences.”
Here, for nearly every drug under the sun, you can get detailed information about what happened, when, and with how much. Want to know what would happen if a 300 pound man took ten hits of acid? What about the effects of the brain after ten years of extensive drug use? All that and more is at your fingertips.
Boasting an advanced search tool that allows you to filter by gender, substance combinations, and even context (i.e. at a rave or at home), nearly every question you could have about how a drug will affect you has been answered. And if not, then hey, you can always submit an experience of your own and help others down the line!
(If you’re looking for further experience reports, PsychedSubstance is a pretty good YouTube channel that has live discussion of the effects as they’re taking place. Although, there’s no telling how much longer his videos will stay up.)
Once you’ve done your research, the last thing you should do is get your drugs checked.
When dealing with an illicit drug, there’s a good chance you won’t be getting exactly what you paid for. Regulated drug markets such as weed get lab-tested before being sold, meaning you’ll know exactly the CBD-to-THC ration before taking a hit; this isn’t so with unregulated substances. Believe people all you want, but the only way to know that the “cocaine” you bought is pure and not deadly fentanyl is to get it tested.
Luckily, we’ve already talked about your first line of defense against bad pills, and that’s DanceSafe. They have a store where you can buy a number of testing kits for various substances, depending on how in-depth you want to get with your measurements. The most thorough testing requires an eight-piece, $100-plus kit, but you can usually settle for an MDMA or coke kit for half that price. Don’t forget to pick up some fentanyl strips while you’re there, and start testing everything you have to make sure it doesn’t have this life-threatening substance.
Home-bought kits aren’t going to tell you exactly what your drugs contain, however; if you want the percentage breakdowns, you’ll need to head to ecstasydata.org. Based out of Sacramento, this Erowid-run “project” will break down your drug into specific milligram measurements–if you send it to them in the mail. That’s right, you’ll gotta pack up your product and ship it through the postal system with a little bit of cash, and in two weeks’ time, the exact breakdown of substances will be on their website. This is especially handy when taking pressed MDMA pills since the actual dosage is impossible to know beforehand.
With these tips in mind, you’re ready to take your harm reduction game to the next level.
Raving can be a dangerous business, and staying safe should be a number one priority for you and your friends. These resources won’t guarantee that nothing will go wrong, but they should better prepare you for something if it does.