If you work in drug services the chances are there's an A4 poster up somewhere telling you what do do if you, as a worker, are accidentally spiked with a used needle. You may even have read it once or twice, but now its going brown at the edges and no one really notices it. But how often do we talk about this with injectors, after all they're at a far greater risk of getting spiked than we are.
One of the constant battles I have in my work is getting people to understand why it’s so important to take the right gauge needle. Using bigger needles will speed up the amount of damage done to the vein and increase scaring. Increased scaring can rapidly lead to veins becoming unusable and even to developing DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis).
But how can you get this point over?
I've been doing a lot of training work lately and one of the main things I always focus on is the fact that people forget the basics. Its all well and good explaining to people the risks of endocarditis or going though something like vein structure. But at the end of the day the basic advice needs to be given, I've already spoken in a previous article about the advantages of giving swabbing advice, so today is the turn of hand washing.
Well I'm just back from the National Conference on Injecting Drug Use and I can honestly say it was one of the best yet. The high point for me was the last session in which Jon Derricott presented a film on crack cocaine production and its preparation for injection, this film contained plenty of learning points for drugs workers and injectors alike ...
Ways of making injections as painless as possible may seem to be a strange thing for a needle exchange worker to be trying to find. After all if an injection is painful then the person is less likely to inject, right…. no, just think of the number of injectors that come into needle exchanges who are afraid to get their vaccinations because it means being injected.
Whenever I move jobs to a new exchange, or if I'm seeing an injector I've never worked with before then swabbing is normally the first bit of advice I give. Mainly I do it as a trust builder, if someone's never met me before then they have no frame of reference on my abilities or knowledge. Plus it seems that anywhere I go, even though this is the most basic of the harm reduction messages I use, that no one seems to have been giving it.