Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Self-retracting needles and why they are not distribution for harm reduction. Safe sharps disposal.

One of the common questions that I receive is why self-retracting needles (single-use syringes) are not distributed as part of harm reduction programs in Langley. Fraser Health staff provided the following information:

How much more expensive would it be to give out self-retracting needles at needle exchanges in an effort to cut down on the potential exposed needle issues?

While retractable needles are more expensive, the main reason the BC CDC does not provide retractable needles in the harm reduction program is the lack of acceptability by people who use drugs which could lead to increased sharing of equipment. Low acceptability and use by the intended population undermines the aim of the program in reducing blood-born illnesses including transmission of infectious diseases.

What are the benefits/challenges with self-retracting needles?

When a syringe and needle are selected for an injection, there are different factors that need to be taken into consideration including the type and site of injection. The self-retracting needles, that people are most familiar with through the provincial Take Home Naloxone program, are ideal for another person injecting a complete dose of naloxone into a large muscle, even through clothes. They are not suitable for other routes of administration or other types of substances.

Given the very low risk that regular syringes pose vis-à-vis infectious disease transmission to general community members when inappropriately discarded in a community setting, there is also negligible benefit to the general community of substituting retractable syringes. Retractable syringes are more useful in an occupational context.

How many needles are coming out of public health versus other sources?

In Fraser Health the percentage distributed by public health units vs. other programs varies greatly across the region. In Langley in 2019, the Langley PHU gave out 35% of the needles distributed in Langley.

For more information, please see single-use syringes information provided by the BC Centre for Disease Control Harm Reduction Services.

This map from Fraser Health shows locations where sharps can be safely disposed.

If you see needles or sharps in the community, you can call the Lookout Housing and Health Society’s Mobile Harm Reduction Team at 604-812-5277. They will come and collect them.

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