The Ultimate Guide to Drugs and Harm Reduction: The High-Way Code

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Safer drug use can be more enjoyable drug use. This is the conclusion drawn by the Global Drugs Survey’s High-Way Code 2014, a study on harm reduction and drugs, which involved 80,000 participants. It is also the first of its kind to be voted for by people who take drugs.

From Alcohol to LSD

The survey focuses on 8 different substances or groups of substances, from alcohol to LSD. Participants, who ‘usually’ took a given drug (more than 50% of the time), were asked to rate a series of harm reduction techniques in terms of importance, and in terms of how much it affected their enjoyment of the drug (i.e., increased it, decreased it, or had no effect).

Let’s take the results on the MDMA as an example. Along the bottom of this page from the report you can see a series of harm reduction methods, such as ‘Stay well hydrated.’

  • Regular MDMA users' perceptions of various harm reduction methods

    Regular MDMA users’ perceptions of various harm reduction methods

  • Looking at the first column on the left (‘Stay Well Hydrated’), we can see that the percentage of users who usually stayed well hydrated was 90%.
  • Looking at the smiley faces, we can see that a large percentage of these people thought that it increased their enjoyment of MDMA (green bit), a smaller percentage thought it had a neutral effect (light blue bit) and a tiny percentage thought that it effected their enjoyment negatively (dark blue bit).
  • Now looking at the seatbelt logo at the top, the average user thought that the importance of sticking to this harm reducing method was 8.8. out of 10.

So what?

These findings are significant in that they tell us what regular drug users think about a series of ‘sensible’ precautions.

We can see that most people who take MDMA feel it’s important to stay hydrated. Moving to the final column on the right, we can also see that the same people don’t think it’s important to ‘Drink less than 6 alcoholic drinks’ while taking MDMA. (It is.)

And so organisations such as ourselves and national drugs charity Crew can see where more work needs to be done in harm reduction, not just generally, but within specific areas. It allows us to consider questions such as ‘Why don’t people think it’s important to drink less than 6 alcoholic drinks? How dangerous actually is it? And what else can we do to change users’ perceptions?’

To see the full High-Way Code 2014, visit:





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