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 exchanges 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 does not condone the use of illegal drugs.
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.
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. The picture below shows the damage done to a needle tip after just a few uses; it's easy to see how it's going to leave a nasty hole on the way out.
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 Needle Exchanges 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, and other paraphernalia. The specialist needle exchange at CRI (Arundel Street Project) @ 92a Arundel Street, Sheffield S1 4RE and the Recovery Van (Arundel Street on the Move) also provide foil for smoking drugs. "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.
Needle Exchanges are either in specialist facilities (such as CRI on Arundel Street) or community based pharmacies. All needle exchanges 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.