Accidental sharing risks, those times when in all the confusion of the moment people aren't quite sure if the needle they intend to use is their own or not.
I recently had an email discussion with Andrew Preston following the sharing workshop I delivered at the NCIDU, he was concerned that from the presentation it looked like I hadn't talked about sharing accidentally as a 'reason' for sharing. Now I'm pretty sure I did cover it in the talk, but the presentation itself was aimed more at reasons 'choose' to share.
But I understand Andrews concern, and I think I'm being guilty of something I'm constantly warning others against, that's looking at the fringe risks and abstracts rather than the basics. We know that accidental sharing is the most common, in Avril Taylor's study it was shown to be twenty to thirty times more common. This was the reason she advised people find ways to identify their own syringes (hence the development of Nevershare syringes).
So if you're a worker in a drug service or an injector, remember that all the talk about not sharing surfaces, about not sharing spoons, not sharing filters is great and very important. But never give this advice at the expense of talking about the basics. For many people the enjecting enviroment is a chaotic one, with preperation areas that have multiple needles and used equipment around, we need to make sure that its as easy as possible for people to ALWAYs have a new unused set of works for every hit.
Things that can be done
- Here are some suggestions on minimising the risks.
- If you can manage it NEVER reuse needles or barrels, if you ALWAYS use a new one then you can be sure it's yours.
- If you HAVE to reuse then use identifiable syringes like Nevershares, or if you don't have access to these then use systems like each person in a group having an assigned number and scrubbing this off the side of the barrel.
- Using low 'dead space' syringes where possible (for more on the increased risks of high dead space see Jamie's article about Dr. William Zule's research).
- Making sure people take 'emergency needles' to minimise the need to ever re-open a sharps bin to reuse old needles.
Nigel Brunsdon is the owner of Injecting Advice.com. He's been working in harm reduction since the 1990's, although he's previously a frontline needle programme worker he now spends most of his time developing online resources for drugs workers and users.