House Party Harm Reduction

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With many of Toronto’s beloved venues shutting down, more and more youth are partying at home. And why not? A house party can be a safer space for folks to use drugs, be silly, hang out with friends and make it a night to remember. House parties also give you the power to make the rules about what goes and what doesn’t. Whether you’re partying or hosting, we can all have a blast by using some simple harm reduction tips:

If you’re hosting a house party…
Figure out the guest list.
What kind of vibe do you want? Is the goal to make someone’s birthday their best one ever by inviting all their pals or are you keeping things on the downlow because someone’s parents are away? Whatever you want your party to be will help you sort through how and who you should invite. Making a Facebook event is an easy way to get a lot of people going – but it can also attract attention. Think about whether you want a private event, if people need to go through the host to vet any pals and what the capacity of the house might be.

If you’re headed to a house party….
Go with someone you trust. Let them know how you plan to party, especially if you might go hard. Ask your pals what substances they might do and let them know what you’re doing, just in case of an emergency. It can also stop someone from calling 911 when you’re just k-holing. If you’re going somewhere you’ve never been,  map out a 24 hour route before you leave (some buses don’t go all night!) and bring extra cash for cab fare.

If you’re hosting a house party…
Tell everyone the rules ahead of time.
Ground rules are important at a house party, where things can get real out of hand real fast. Having someone (or a core group) who gets the final say can be helpful if the host isn’t there when things are going down. Decide ahead of time which areas of the house are off limits, what kind of behavior is unacceptable and how you will handle common mishaps. How will you handle someone who has busted someone else’s consent? What will you do if the cops show up with a noise complaint? How would you stop someone who is too drunk to drive? Agree on house party rules and then make them super clear to everyone who is coming. Post them ahead of time on the event invite post or page. Know how you will enforce them. For example, get the drivers to give a sober person their keys to hold on to when they get in if they will be partying, or assign your most charming (or sober) buddy to be the one who talks to the cops. Try to make the rules easy to follow and easy for other partiers to enforce. Lock doors you don’t want people to go into or put up signs, hide expensive stuff that might get broken or stolen and encourage everyone to be respectful of the hosts.

If you’re headed to a house party…
Know your limits.
Know what it feels like when you’ve had too much and need to leave, and make sure that you are safe to travel. Let your friends know what warning signs might look like for you (ie getting quiet, stumbling etc.) Watch your drink and always get a new one if you’ve left it unattended. You can use the lines on red solo cups to see how much alcohol you’ve drank. House parties can be more marathons than sprints, so start with low doses and go slow. If you’re mixing substances, try to mix ones you’ve done by themselves before so you know the effects. Use lower doses when mixing. Never mix GHB and alcohol, it can result in an overdose, coma or death. Try to wait until one substance has fully hit before you add another. Eat snacks, take breaks and keep checking in with yourselves and your friends. It can sometimes be helpful to have a cut off, even a general one, for when you want to leave the party. Bring sunglasses incase you leave past sunrise.

If you’re hosting a house party…
Be harm reduction friendly!
Have supplies ready for people. Cut up straws and leave them in cups near popular surfaces, like glass tables. You can impress your guests with fancy paper straws that fit the occasion (Halloween! Valentines day!).  Have lots of salty snacks out for people and disposable cups partiers can use for water. Make it clear where the power bars or outlets are so people can charge their phones. Have a naloxone kit in every room where it is clearly visible to everyone. Know how to use it. Stock up at the Trip! Youth Drop In (every Wednesday, 4pm-6pm at 168 Bathurst) to get lots of safer use kits, sharps containers, extra pipes and more. Alcohol swabs are great for cleaning off a communal bong or surface between uses. Make sure the entrance is clear of shoes and coats, so that people don’t trip over stuff coming in. This is also important in case of an emergency where first responders might need to rush in. Have a quieter space available for someone who is having a difficult trip or someone who needs to sleep it off before they can drive home.

If you’re going to a house party…
Party safe(r)!
Get harm reduction and safer sex supplies for you and your friends at the Trip! Youth Drop In (4pm-6pm, Wednesdays at 168 Bathurst) before the party. Bring anything you need, like a small sharps bin, straws or small surfaces. Keep your stuff on you at all times so that it doesn’t get stolen or accidentally taken by someone else. Carry your own naloxone kit and let people know you have it. Bring snacks and a water bottle.

And of course, whether you’re hosting or going…
Show gratitude!
Parties are harder to pull off with fewer venues. The scene is still thriving because of amazing party people being thoughtful hosts and respectful guests. Show gratitude by helping watch out for other party people, bringing snacks to share, letting the hosts know if someone is having a difficult trip and by helping clean up at the end. Everyone loves a community vibe – the way to bring that is by thinking of others!