There are many ways to reduce the damage that you do to yourself by injecting any substance, including using clean works and following some simple steps to staying safe. Ultimately the only way to stop any damage to your veins is by stopping injecting – if you’re not ready for that yet please look at some other ways to minimise the harm being done below.
Needle exchange products and services are available to all who could benefit from them, including steroid users and people injecting with tanning products. Needle exchange staff will be able to provide you with clean equipment and advice.
Getting Clean Equipment
Needle and syringe programmes (NSPs) provide a variety of specialist injecting equipment free of charge. This equipment is provided in order to help prevent the health problems caused by poor injecting practice and to provide low threshold engagement opportunities through harm reduction.
The dangers of sharing equipment with other people are well known and include the risk of catching a blood-borne virus such as HIV or Hepatitis B or C.
Less well known are the dangers of re-using your own equipment – the more times a needle gets used the more damaged the end gets, but it’s not visible to the naked eye. Damaged needles cause a lot of damage to veins, increasing the chances that you will get an ulcerated or collapsed vein. By using new clean equipment you can prolong the life of a vein as well as reducing the damage being done. There is no limit on the equipment issued (within reason), so you should be able to get a fresh needle for every planned injection, in line with NICE best practice guidance on the provision of Needle and Syringe Programmes (NSPs).
The ‘never share’ needles are designed especially for injecting drug users. They are available in a variety of colours to help prevent accidental sharing and feature an ultra-fine needle that reduces the damage done to the vein as the needle goes in.
As well as needles, NSPs also provide swabs, sterile water and water ampoule ‘snappers’, both Vit C and citric acids (for dissolving base solids), spoons, crack packs, condoms, dental dams, foil for smoking, and other paraphernalia that is more suitable for people injecting steroids, for example.
“Citric Acid or Acetic Acid?” traditionally people injecting brown heroin have used an acetic acid to dissolve the gear (vinegar). We now provide ascorbic acid, better known as vitamin C. Ascorbic acid isn’t as strong as acetic acid so you will find you have to use a bit more to get everything properly dissolved – this doesn’t mean you won’t get the same hit or high but it does mean that the solution you inject won’t burn your tissue as much, reducing the amount of veins you lose. Ultimately this will mean you will stay (relatively) healthier for longer and the almost inevitable problems you will develop will arrive later.
NSPs in Sheffield are either in specialist facilities (Fitzwilliam Centre, Fitzwilliam Street and the Sidney Street Service (Non Opiate Service), at 44 Sidney Street, Sheffield) or at selected community based pharmacies (see list below). All NSPs should be able to provide a suitable range of high-quality free equipment regardless of where they are based. Pharmacies that have equipment available display the exchange logo (below).
All needle exchanges will be able to dispense of used equipment -please bring needles back in a needle safe container (Sharps Bin) (these are also available for free). Needle waste in public areas is a big problem and presents a serious public safety concern, help us to help you by bringing old works in for exchange.
Needle Exchange Locations
The van is used for brief interventions, assessments, 1-to-1 support and advice and direct signposting to our own specialist benefits advice worker, the harm reduction nurses team, and the complementary therapists team, along with our own group work programme. Service user’s will be able to access specific information about, and referral’s into, additional treatment provider’s and wraparound services, along with referrals into Turning Point’s tier 3 PSI team and Rough Sleeper service.
We provide confidential information and support for adults with substance use problems, and service user’s can talk to us about harm reduction issues and their recovery options. We also envisage in the future being able to provide benefits advice on the move and hope to have a HR nurse accompany us for wound care, vaccinations etc…when required.
The timetable for the van is currently under review.