Although needle-sharing has fallen among people who inject drugs (PWID), sharing remains a problem, with more than one in six PWID saying they have shared a needle within the past month, according to the latest figures from Public Health England (PHE).
The 2017 version of PHE’s annual report ‘Shooting up: infections among people who inject drugs in the UK’ highlights the need for the “adequate provision of injecting equipment” for PWID.
“[It] is important, not only to reduce sharing of injecting equipment, but also to reduce the re-use of equipment by the same individual, which could lead to accidental sharing in situations where people store injecting equipment together,” the report says.
It also warns that needle and syringe provision for people who inject drugs across the UK is “sub-optimal”, with around half of people who inject drugs reporting adequate needle and syringe provision in England, Wales and Northern Ireland compared with 72% in Scotland.
Needle and syringe provision is considered “adequate” when the reported number of needles and syringes received met or exceeded the number of times the individual injected.
Glasgow’s needle exchange
In September Scotland’s busiest needle exchange service for drug addicts in Glasgow’s Central Station was closed.
The service, based in a branch of Boots at the station, was closed by Network Rail after it said drug-taking equipment was found in public areas.
The exchange opened in July 2016 following a spike in the number of HIV cases in Glasgow.
The PHE update also found that there has been increased injecting of new psychoactive substances, or legal highs, and of crack cocaine.
Hepatitis C maintains the most common blood-borne infection among PWID, with an estimated two in five PWID living with the disease and roughly half of those cases being undiagnosed.
PHE said that the “provision of effective interventions needs to be maintained and optimised” for PWID.
“These interventions include needle-and-syringe programmes, opioid-substitution treatment and other treatments for drug misuse and dependence.”