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Reach of needle and syringe programmes needs to extend

News team

Needle and syringe programmes targeted at people who inject image- and performance-enhancing drugs are needed, according to the latest “Shooting up” report from Public Health England, published last week (8 November 2013).

The report — which describes the extent of infections among people who inject drugs in the UK to the end of 2012 — says that people who inject image- and performance-enhancing drugs, such as anabolic steroids and tanning drug melanotan, are at greater risk of HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C infection than previously thought. It adds that, in England and Wales, the level of HIV infection among this group is similar to that among people who inject psychoactive drugs, such as heroin and crack-cocaine.

The report also highlights that infections remain common among people who inject psychoactive drugs. Half of this group have been infected with hepatitis C; around one in 100 has HIV; and almost one-third report having a recent injection site infection. However, hepatitis B infection among this group has declined, which the report says is probably due to an increase in uptake of hepatitis B vaccination. The report also describes a recent increase in the injection of amphetamines and amphetamine-type drugs, such as mephedrone, explaining that there is evidence that injecting these drugs is associated with higher levels of infection risk than injecting other psychoactive drugs.

Separately, Public Health England last week (6 November 2013) published its annual report on drug treatment activity in England for 2012–13. The report says that adult drug treatment programmes in England continued to perform well, helping over 29,000 people to recover from addiction. The total number of people in treatment during 2012–13 was 193,575, down from 197,110 in 2011–12 and from a peak of 210,815 in 2008–09.

However, despite reporting an overall decline in drug use and a move away from the most problematic substances, the Government body warns that services “need to adapt and respond effectively to changing patterns in drug use and the needs of the wider population, such as those who get into problems with new psychoactive substances and prescription or over-the-counter medicines”.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2013.11130105

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