Vol 14 Edition 1

Back to basics: Safer injecting

Improving client health and therefore population-level HIV and hepatitis C rates are fundamental elements of NSP work.

With the recent focus on syringe quality, it’s a good time to refresh clients on some of the fundamental and practical ways to manage risks involved with injecting.

  • Do not share injecting equipment – every time you share you’re risking hepatitis C and HIV.
  • Protect veins and don’t re-use equipment. Needles blunt after the first use and get blunter each time.
  • Clean the injecting site. Wash your hands or swab them. Take lots of swabs from the NSP.
  • Take care of the sites on your body that you inject into. Regularly change injecting sites. Seek treatment for any injuries – before they get serious. Even if they dont look serious, still seek treatment.
  • If you are injecting performance or image-enhancing drugs – such as steroids – don’t  inject into veins or arteries.
  • Be in control of your own drug use. Learn to inject yourself so you don’t have to rely on others. Especially when injecting drugs that have overdose risk, don’t inject alone if you can avoid it.
  • There are some places you should try to avoid injecting – basically anywhere above the shoulders and below the waist. Avoid neck and head (increases the risk of stroke or serious nerve damage, and if you get an infection, it’s near your brain) and breasts (increases the risk of inflammation and infection of breast tissue, also known as mastitis). Injecting below your waist can cause blood circulation problems, especially if the veins become damaged.
  • Dispose of needles and syringes safely. The NSP will take them back. Keep sharps containers with you where you inject.

Safer injecting messages for South Korean-made Terumo injecting equipment

The controversy over the Terumo South Korean-made syringes continues, but some people have found certain procedures helpful. Here are some tips that are useful in using them more safely.

  • Slow down. Relax. Go slow. Take your time.
  • Take control. Try to get used to the Korean-made fits while things get sorted out. Take lots of equipment.
  • Pump the plunger. This helps free up the stiff feeling and makes drawing back easier.
  • Keep it sharp. Be careful not to blunt the needle on the spoon. A filter will help as the needle won’t hit the spoon directly.
  • Try dropping the angle of the fit to almost flat when you’re injecting – people say it helps find the vein, as the needle bevel is flatter.
  • Make sure you’re in a vein. There might be less blood in the barrel than you’re used to, but there is likely to be some.
  • Tiny bubbles in the barrel. Don’t worry, they’re harmless.
  • Having problems? Start again, use new equipment.
  • Spread the word. If you find things that work for you tell your mates. If you know people having issues, suggest they speak to staff at the NSP.
  • The caps are flimsy. Needles can puncture caps and cause injury. Be extra careful.

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