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Drug update: staying safe

May 01 2020
General advice from Groundswell


  • If you are being drug tested ask if you can skip appointments and urine testing for at least 3 months.
  • Be prepared for services temporarily closing (eg, needle exchanges, drug treatment and detox programs).
  • People with compromised immune systems, lung diseases and other preexisting conditions are more at risk of contracting Covid-19. Help keep them safe by keeping yourself safe, see 'Q&A about Covid-19'
  • Now may be the time for you to consider recovery options, always make sure you seek the advice of a professional.
    Try: online recovery meetings and call-back service uk: speak to drug and alcohol workers online recovery meetings and
    Helpline Tel: 0300 999 1212

Protect yourself

Covid-19 causes flu-like symptoms and affects your lungs and airways. People who use drugs and have weakened immune systems or underlying health issues can be more vulnerable to the effects of this virus.
TIP: Also see contacts, p30–31

Where can I get help?

  • If you’re staying in a hotel, hostel or other supported accommodation, ask a support worker, staff member or drugs workers for advice.
  • If you are rough sleeping, speak to an outreach worker or a worker from a service you access. 
  • Contact your GP as they may offer you treatment or refer you to your local drug service. You can approach your local drug treatment service yourself.
    Visit Talk to Frank to find your local service:

Important information
Appointments, pharmacies and scripts

  • Medical appointments. GP and hospital appointments are now mostly arranged as either a phone or video call.
  • Visits to the pharmacy. Going to the pharmacy frequently could increase your risk of catching or spreading Covid-19 as they are busy with long queues. If you are on a daily supervised plan ask to move it to a less frequent pick-up plan. Ask if your pharmacist would let someone else collect your script.
  • On a reduction plan? It might be best to stop for a short time if visits to the service are reduced.
  • Already on a script? Most people who already receive medication to take away will get a 2-week supply.
  • Supervised scripts? Most people who are on supervised scripts will move to unsupervised and will get a 2-week supply.
  • Collecting my script? Carry on going to your usual pharmacy as normal, ensuring you stick to the Government’s social distancing guidelines. The pharmacist will tell you when your medicine supply is changing.
  • I can’t or don’t want to go out to my pharmacy. Contact the service you use or speak to your GP, they should try to make arrangements. If you are choosing someone else to collect your script, they will need a signed dated letter from you and some form of ID.
  • If you’re not on a script but think you should be. Contact your GP or drug treatment service and ask for an assessment appointment.
  • If you are using opiates and want to come off. It might be best to get on Methadone or Buprenorphine (Subutex, Suboxone, etc) so seek the advice of a professional.
  • If you are feeling unwell and cannot get medication. Let someone know as soon as possible. Ask a friend or family member to call if you need to (see real life experience on p26). If it is more urgent call NHS 111 who will discuss your symptoms (please note they will be busier than usual). If it is an emergency call 999.

Stay safe & minimise harm
Managing drug supplies

  • Make sure you have enough syringes and injecting equipment to last you for a couple of weeks. Use local needle exchanges at pharmacies.
  • If you have managed to build up a stockpile of drugs, try to ration them. Do not use more than you normally would.
  • Remember buying and selling drugs is illegal and still an arrestable offence during the Covid-19 pandemic.


  • Don’t share pipes, bongs, vapes or joints, nasal tubes or injecting equipment.
  • Wipe down packages with alcohol-based cleansers (a minimum 60% alcohol concentration kills the Covid-19 virus).
  • Do not put drug packages in your mouth, vagina or anus. If you must carry it in your body, clean vigorously with an alcohol-based cleanser before and after.
  • Wash your hands with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds before and after you come into contact with people, handle money and/or receive drugs.
  • Prepare your drugs yourself. Don't touch other people’s equipment or drugs and don’t let them touch your stuff.


  • Getting supplies may be more difficult, which could cause involuntary withdrawal – these symptoms can be very difficult to manage.
  • Have back-up plans and make sure you have all the necessary medication, food, drink and support systems in place if you need to detox off drugs you are dependent on.