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Needle exchange schemes must include steroid users, says NICE

Needle and syringe services need overhauling to better meet the needs of those using image- and performance-enhancing drugs, says the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.


Source: R.Gino Santa Maria Shutterfree,Llc /

Providing anabolic steroid users with needles and syringes at gyms is one idea suggested by NICE

The organisation has updated its 2009 guideline on the provision of needle and syringe programmes to reflect the rise in the number of people using anabolic steroids. In order to limit the spread of blood borne viruses such as HIV and hepatitis B and C, NICE states that services should ensure that users are provided with the equipment they need to inject safely in places they frequent and at the times that best suit them. An example would be an outreach service located in a gym outside normal working hours manned by appropriately trained staff.

Mike Kelly, director of the NICE Centre for Public Health, said: “Needle and syringe programmes have been a huge success story in the UK, they are credited with helping stem the AIDS epidemic in the ’80s and ’90s. However, we are now seeing a completely different group of people injecting drugs. They do not see themselves as ‘drug addicts’;  quite the contrary, they consider themselves to be fit and healthy people who take pride in their appearance.”

The move has been welcomed by those involved in needle exchange schemes. David Rourke, harm reduction lead for Sheffield’s Arundel Street Project, under the auspices of the Crime Reduction Initiative charity, said: “People who inject steroids are potentially using them without the correct education or the correct equipment and this can lead to more and more people injecting unsafely, which can put not just their own life but the lives of those around them at risk.”

He believes the guideline gives front-line workers clear recommendations on how to support image- and performance-enhancing drug users.

The guideline comes five months after Public Health England issued a report which said needle and syringe programmes targeted at people who inject image- and performance-enhancing drugs were needed.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2014.11137210

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