Harm Reduction

What is Harm Reduction?

How do we define Harm Reduction?

“Harm reduction is a set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with drug use. Harm Reduction is also a movement for social justice built on a belief in, and respect for, the rights of people who use drugs” (NHRC, 2022).

– National Harm Reduction Coalition

Harm reduction incorporates various methods that range from safer use, to managed use, to abstinence.

  • A Harm Reduction approach means that we aim to meet people who use drugs where they are. It also means we aim to move at the pace of the individual. It does not remove a person’s primary coping mechanism until others are in place.
  • A Harm Reduction approach seeks to empower drug users, encouraging them to share information and support each other.
  • A Harm Reduction approach works to minimize harmful effects rather than ignore or condemn them.
  • Harm Reduction acknowledges that some ways of using drugs are clearly safer than others.
  • Harm Reduction is not a replacement for drug treatment.
  • Harm Reduction is another service that should be offered to people who use drugs as a form of pretreatment.
  • Harm Reduction is not about “enabling” people to continue to use substances.
  • Harm Reduction is about advocating for the health of people who use drugs. Similar to the way sexual education aims to teach about healthier and safer ways to engage in sex.

Harm Reduction Rover Sites/Naloxone Distribution Map Locator

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Myth Busters


  • You can overdose from simply touching fentanyl.


  • Toxicity cannot occur from simply being in proximity to fentanyl. For opioid toxicity to occur, the drug must enter the blood and brain from the environment.
  • For fentanyl to cause an overdose, “you would have to be in some sort of wind tunnel with massive amounts of fentanyl… It is impossible to overdose from accidentally touching fentanyl. The odds are zero”
    • Dr. Ryan Marino, a toxicologist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (Kovanis, 2019).


  • Many overdoses are happening (fatal and non-fatal) throughout the state due to “fentanyl laced marijuana”.


  • Marijuana contamination is not due to intentional adulteration.
  • There has been one confirmed case of Marijuana testing positive for fentanyl. Which was likely due to cross contamination.
  • CT ORS [Connecticut Overdose Response Strategy] assesses that the positive confirmation of marijuana with fentanyl was likely accidental contamination and an isolated incident.
  • Both nationally and locally any investigation into intentional adulteration has been proven to be unfounded.
  • This misinformation can cause hysteria and make it less likely for individuals to administer Naloxone.


  • Naloxone will not work on an overdose when Xylazine is present.


  • Xylazine is usually used as an additive to elongate fentanyl intoxication. If the individual is experiencing an opioid overdose, you should still use Naloxone.
  • Naloxone will act on the opioid and allow for breathing to resume.
  • Naloxone will not work on the xylazine, as it is a sedative.
  • The person may not become alert and responsive, rescue breathing may be necessary, and breathing should be monitored over an eyes open/alert response.

Safer Use Practices

Fentanyl Testing Strip – Instructions


  • Xylazine is an animal tranquilizer that is not approved for human consumption by the FDA. Street name can sometimes be “Tranq”.
  • Due to the somewhat short-lasting effects of fentanyl, Xylazine is currently being used as an additive to elongate its intoxicating effects.
  • Based on Data In 2021, there were 301 Unintentional Drug overdose deaths involving xylazine in Connecticut *CT DPH SUDORS Dashboard (2023).
  • Xylazine is a not an opioid, meaning it will not respond to Naloxone.
  • Naloxone will reverse the effects on a fentanyl/opioid overdose and should still be used even if Xylazines presence is suspected.
  • However, the overdose may look different.
  • A person may not sit up, open their eyes, or respond after the Naloxone has taken effect. This is because the tranquilizer is present in their system.
  • What should always be monitored, is whether the person is breathing.
  • Always monitor breathing. Rescue breathing is an essential part of overdose response.
  • Xylazine is also causing wounds, please see the following linked information for directions on how to care for these wounds.

Xylazine – Harm Reduction Tips

  • Start low and go slow.
  • Xylazine may stay in your system for hours and can build up over time so be careful because the doses can pile up.
  • If you are taking clonidine, and xylazine is suspected in your drug supply.
  • Consider the following;
    • Not using, decreasing your dose or monitoring your blood pressure/heart rate carefully.
    • The risk or severity of sedation can be increased when Clonidine is combined with Xylazine.
  • People who use xylazine may be at an increased risk of wounds, even in non-injection locations.
  • Keep an eye on your skin and tend to wounds early.
  • Apply ointment (Neosporin, Vaseline, Medi-honey, or hexagon) to a non-stick gauze or Xeroform.

Volunteer with us!

Harm Reduction is about love, building community, and saving lives!

We need your help making harm reduction kits and conducting sites throughout Litchfield County.

Contact Cameron Breen at Cameron.Breen@mccallbhn.org about becoming a volunteer!