Advice for safer injecting

This page will tell you about the risks of injecting drugs, how to reduce those risks and what to do if someone experiences an overdose. 

What are the risks of injecting drugs?  

If you take drugs by injecting them, you are more vulnerable to injuries, infections and blood borne viruses. It’s also easier to overdose from an injection.   

Using a needle can cause abscesses, ulcers and damage to your veins. Using an unclean needle can also pass on viruses like hepatitis and HIV.   

Find out more about HIV and how to keep yourself safe

Find out more about hepatitis and how to keep yourself safe

Advice for safer injecting  

The best way to stay safe is by not injecting, but you can also lower the risk of infections and injuries by following these tips:  

How to tell if someone has overdosed  

Keep an eye out for these signs that someone is having an overdose:  

  • Deep snoring/gurgling noises  
  • You can’t wake the person up, and they don’t respond if you shake their shoulders or call their name  
  • A blue tinge to the lips, nail beds or other extremities  
  • They have stopped breathing.  

You should always call 999 if you think someone is having an overdose.   
Don’t be scared that you’ll get in trouble. The ambulance will not bring the police with them except in very particular cases.   


What to do if someone is having an overdose  

Keep calm and follow these steps:  

  • Make sure that you’re not in any danger first. Keeping yourself safe is important.  
  • Call 999 and ask for an ambulance.  
  • Check to see if there is anything obstructing their airways.  
  • Place the person in the recovery position. You can find out how to do this here.  
  • If you have naloxone, give it to the person having the overdose 
  • Wait with the person until the ambulance arrives, and give the used naloxone kit to the paramedics 
naloxone kit (opioid overdose reversal drug) with syringe, needles and yellow packet

Naloxone – the overdose reversal drug

Naloxone is a drug that can reverse the effects of opioids, such as heroin, methadone, opium, codeine, morphine, and buprenorphine. A naloxone dose can even save someone’s life if it's used quickly after they’ve overdosed on opioids and before emergency help arrives.   

The effects of naloxone don’t last very long, so it’s important to always call 999 and ask for emergency help when you use it.  

You can get a free naloxone kit and training from one of our services.   

Find out about naloxone and what to do if someone is overdosing

Getting safe equipment from a needle exchange

Needle exchange programs are places where you can get safe, clean injecting equipment and advice for staying safe. You can also return any used equipment so that it can be safely disposed of.   

Find out more about needle exchange services

Many of our drug and alcohol services also offer a needle exchange. Get in touch with your local service or visit their website to find out if they have a needle exchange program.