Less Common Types of Paraphernalia Offered by Modern Harm Reduction


One of the most commonly-distributed forms of drug paraphernalia by entities engaged in harm reduction is syringes. Cotton, tourniquets, and alcohol swabs are also commonly given out to help drug users, particularly injection drug users (IDUs), stay safe. Supply distributors often fail to include people who sniff drugs.

Intranasal administration is a common form of administration with many popular drugs, including cocaine, opioids, and amphetamine. People use things like rolled-up currency notes to cleanly transfer drugs to users’ mucous membranes that line their nasal cavities. They also often share these homemade, disposable tooters. Many people don’t know that sharing tooters can spread HCV — Hepatitis C — and other diseases.

Few harm reductionist agencies, organizations, or well-intentioned individuals give out clean tooters, whether they be permanent and sturdy or reusable and pliable.

Meth and Crack Pipes

Traditionally, crack pipes, also known as stems, were made from “glass roses” often available at head shops and gas stations. The roses themselves were simply filler items so that their “vases” — crack pipes in poor disguise is more like it — could be more easily sold. All that needs to be done is buy some steel wool, known by the brand name of Chore Boy, and place a small piece in the smoking end of the pipe.

After this is done, crack pipes are ready for use.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to use Chore Boy — just as cotton swabs are widely known as “Q-Tips,” a popular brand name of cotton swabs, crack users often refer to steel wool as “Chore Boy,” irrespective of the actual brand name or manufacturer.

Meth pipes are also disguised in similar ways in convenience stores, head shops, and gas stations, as well as web-based drug paraphernalia stores.

Lightbulbs can be modified to smoke — technically, you don’t want to cause meth to combust; rather, to get more bang for your back, you want it to vaporize — meth by simply adding a hole and removing their insides.

Just recently, Next Distro began stocking both crack and meth pipes. Now, as one of the largest distributors of harm reduction supplies across the United States, thousands of drug users will soon find it easier to locate new or lightly-used crack or meth pipes that, just like clean syringes, help these stimulant users stay safer.

Syringe Disinfectants

Fortunately, we’re at a point where harm reduction programs here in the United States are readily able to provide others with brand-new syringes ideal for intravenous drug use. As such, we don’t often find syringe disinfectant aids, such as chlorine tablets that help eliminate all diseases that may be present on and within used syringes.

These chlorine syringe disinfectant tablets, which actually contain sodium dichloroisocyanurate, or NaDCC, are used as follows:

• First, take the chlorine tablet and drop it into a glass of clean water.
• The used syringe in question should be thoroughly, fully rinsed at least twice with water.
• By now, the tablet should have dissolved.
• Flush the syringes at least once with this chlorine solution.
• Next, follow up by at least one rinse of only water.

Colored Syringes

Of course, syringes are used to inject drugs. They consist of a needle, barrel, and plunger. Syringes truly are that simple.

Colored syringes aren’t common in the United States. One benefit of colored syringes to their plain, like-kind counterparts is that it’s easier to differentiate between whose syringes are whose. As long as two or more intravenous drug users set out to each get different-colored syringes for their current using session, they’re going to be at a much, much lower risk of mixing up one another’s syringes and potentially transmitting blood-borne diseases.

Truly Single-Use Syringes

All syringes — at least it seems to be this way — that modern American drug users administer intravenous drugs with are supposed to be used just one time.

However, due to various issues in our modern society here in the United States, people don’t always have steady access to free, clean syringes. As such, they end up reusing them.

A man named Marc Koska, who I do not know and have never met, developed a brand-name syringe known as the K1 Syringe. Put simply, the K1 Syringe is a true single-use syringe, as it is designed with safeguards that render these units unable to be used for second or further administrations.

Although this does encourage intravenous drug users to seek out new syringes, IDUs sometimes put themselves at greater harm by trying to bypass these safeguards and use K1 Syringes again. They might also try to make makeshift syringes, which are inherently more dangerous than reused syringes.

A few other generic names used to describe syringes like the K1 Syringe are difficult to re-use (DTR), lockable, auto-disabled, and retractable syringes.

There are several good reasons as to why these DTR syringes are not provided by modern domestic harm reductionists to drug users, including:

• They, by design, leave a small portion of the drug-containing solution behind.
• DTRs sometimes make registering to make certain you’re in a vein difficult.
• If the needle itself clogs, drug users sometimes harm these syringes just to use what they already loaded up.
• More widespread reliance on DTRs would probably result in non-DTR units being re-used and circulated on second-hand markets more often.
• These well-intentioned auto-disabled syringes are roughly three times the price of other syringes.
• Leaving IDUs to deal with syringes that do include safeguards assumes that they’re unable to be responsible as a greater social class.

Here in the United States, Ascorbic Acid Is Uncommon

Some American federal agency classified freebase diamorphine as heroin #3 and diamorphine hydrochloride as #4. #3 is typically found throughout Europe and originates, most times, from the Middle East. It’s one step short of being fully-fledged heroin.

Just like freebase cocaine, freebase heroin — aka heroin #3 — doesn’t dissolve in water without the help of ascorbic acid, also known as vitamin C.

There’s not much of a use for ascorbic acid among American heroin users due to the fact the seriously-overwhelming majority of heroin in the country is #4 and readily breaks down in water.

Although ascorbic acid is used by some American users to prepare crack cocaine for intravenous use, ascorbic acid is typically rarely seen among modern harm reductionist organizations’ and agencies’ supply lists.

These Aren’t the Only Rare Ones

Some of these supplies are solid ideas and would do nothing but increase the benefits derived from modern harm reduction advocacy. However, others are proven to be detrimental to our cause as harm reductionist advocates or drug policy reformers.

Can you think of any other rare, uncommon, or outdated harm reduction supplies? If so, please share them in a comment or by reaching out to me directly.

By Daniel Garrett

I'm a self-employed writer, long-term drug user, and resident of rural Tennessee. Find me on Twitter at @DanielGarrettHR or email me at

2 replies on “Less Common Types of Paraphernalia Offered by Modern Harm Reduction”

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