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Where To Stick It - Safely Disposing of Needles & Syringes

Thursday, 30 October 2014

The WA Substance Users Association (WASUA) reports that it received 1, 486, 175 used needle and syringes at its exchange service in 2013/14 - a return rate of 98%. Clearly, most people who inject drugs are keen to safely dispose of used equipment - but what do you do if you find a discarded needle and syringe in a public place?

Don't Panic

A safe disposal box for used needles and syringes.

"Don't panic," says Mikayla-Jay McGinley, WASUA's Hepatitis C Educator and Safe Disposal Worker. "You're able to dispose of the needle and syringe with minimal risk."

Do Something - Here's How

If there isn't a safe disposal box nearby, the WA Department of Health offers clear instructions on how to safely dispose of needles and syringes.

"Needles and syringes should only be handled from the plunger end of the syringe and carefully placed in a rigid, plastic container that can be tightly sealed," says Mikayla-Jay. "Once sealed, you can then place the container into a domestic rubbish bin - not a recycling bin."

Contact WASUA
WASUA welcome calls about discarded needles and syringes because it helps them to learn more about people who could benefit from the information they offer.

"Most people who are using are up with information on blood-borne viruses and safer injecting habits," says Mikayla-Jay. "There are small pockets of users who may not have information about safer injecting and safe disposal, and we need to get information and resources out to those groups."

What Are The Risks?

According to the WA Department of Health, to date there hasn't been a documented case of a person contracting HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C from a needlestick injury that occurred in a community setting (such as a park or beach) in WA. The risk is considered to be very low.

While there is a minimal risk of infection from touching used needles and syringes, there may be people in the community - for example, children - who will not be aware of the risks or the distress that a needle stick injury could cause them or their family. Save someone else some stress and if you see a discarded needle or syringe, take care to dispose of it safely.

For people who inject drugs, it's important not to share any injecting equipment - not just needles and syringes - because the risk of blood-borne virus infection is higher.

Clean Needles & Syringes  - Information on Safer Injecting

 If you want to know where to go for clean needles and syringes, there are several options in metropolitan and regional WA.

The WA Substance Users' Association offers a needle and syringe exchange and other services in the Perth CBD. The WA AIDS Council also offers a mobile needle and syringe exchange in the Perth metropolitan area, while HepatitisWA also offer a needle and syringe program in Northbridge.

WASUA also offers needle and syringe exchange in the south west, while the South Metro Community Drug Service (Palmerston) operates an exchange in Mandurah and the Midwest Community Drug Service offers an exchange in Geraldton. A needle and syringe program is also available in the Great Southern through the Great Southern Community Alcohol and Drug Service (Palmerston). Check the Green Book Directory of Alcohol and other Drug and Mental Health Services in WA for contact details. Local hospitals, WA Health Population Health and chemists may also be able to help.

More Information

For more information about the safe disposal of needles and syringes, about safer injecting or blood-borne viruses, please contact the WA Substance Users Association on (08) 9321 2877.

Drug and Alcohol Office and Mental Health Commission Amalgamation - What Will It Mean For You?

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

The Drug and Alcohol Office and Mental Health Commission are set to amalgamate in the coming months. Mental Health Commissioner Tim Marney and Drug and Alcohol Office Executive Director Neil Guard briefed the alcohol and other drug sector on what the amalgamation will mean for services and consumers on Tuesday 16 September 2014.

Over 75 representatives from the alcohol and other drug sector attended to learn more about how the new agency will function and what it will mean for their services and for people who experience problems related to alcohol and other drug use.

Mental Health Commissioner Tim Marney assured non-government alcohol and other drug services that there should be no change to the way they deliver services to the community.

Drug and Alcohol Office Executive Director Neil Guard said that the functions currently carried out by the Drug and Alcohol Office will be retained as set out in state legislation.

Mental Health Commissioner Tim Marney presented two slides that outlined the planned structure for the new agency.

WANADA recorded the briefing and a condensed video can now be shared.

WANADA will continue to engage with the Drug and Alcohol Office and the Mental Health Commission to ensure that the needs of the non-government alcohol and other drug sector are heard and will monitor the impact on services and consumers.

For more information, please contact WANADA on (08) 6365 6365 or via drugpeak@wanada.org.au

On Ice - Methamphetamine Use and Treatment In WA

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

WA's high rate of amphetamine use is in the spotlight, with police, emergency services, treatment services and the community raising concerns in The West Australian.

Amphetamine Use in WA

WA has the highest proportion of amphetamine users in Australia. The 2010 National Drug Strategy Household Survey report (July 2011) summary of methamphetamine use in the past 12 months for non-medical purposes by people aged 14 years or older in each state and territory showed:


Why Do People Use Amphetamines?

 People use alcohol and other drugs because it makes them feel good or better. Methamphetamine is no different in this sense. Methamphetamine can be used functionally in low doses, as a performance enhancing drug, but in higher doses is also extremely rewarding as a recreational drug.

The stimulating effects of methamphetamine, depending on the dose and a person's tolerance, can last between 12 and 21 hours. Users report improved concentration and focus, increased stamina and endurance, and experiences of well-being, confidence and heightened energy.

What Are The Risks?

The same factors that make the drug so attractive to some also make it easy to become dependent upon. People may end up relying on methamphetamine to cope with pressures from work or study, to enhance social activities or sex, or to self-medicate emotional or psychological pain. Considering its accessibility it can become a patterned response that provides a relatively easy "solution" to many different problems.

Wide variability in potency is a contributing factor to developing a dependence, as it encourages regular users to take all of a deal at once, rather than risk "wasting their rush" by trying a small amount first.  This may result in people taking escalating doses, making the risk of acute physical or mental health problems resulting from toxicity more likely.

Compared to dexamphetamine pills or powder, which are typically swallowed or "snorted", crystalline methamphetamine tends to be taken by more efficient and immediate means, such as smoking (vaporisation) or injecting. Clean injecting equipment must be used and never shared to prevent blood-borne viruses such as Hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS.

Other health risks include mood changes, problems with thinking and memory, and damage to major organs.

Family and relationships may be adversely impacted by behavioural effects of the drug, increased criminal behaviour may become a problem for some users, and alcohol and methamphetamine use together may result in increased levels of violence and aggression.

 What Are The Challenges for Treatment Services?

Methamphetamine users do not experience withdrawal in the same way that heroin users do. Most dependent users can abstain for 5 to 7 days with little discomfort, sleeping and eating more than usual during this time. It is in the following weeks that methamphetamine withdrawal symptoms (including low energy and enthusiasm, depressed libido, poor concentration and memory, and irritability and irregular moods) emerge. These may last for several months. There is no specific detoxification medication.

This can be a challenge for in-patient and residential detoxification and rehabilitation services, which are designed typically for alcohol, benzodiazepine, or opioid detoxification. Other challenges for treatment services and consumers include:
  • Methamphetamine users who are wishing to become abstinent can experience an extended period (up to 12 months) of "crashing and craving".
  • The effectiveness of pharmacotherapies in reducing amphetamine type substance (ATS) use and preventing relapse is uncertain.
  • Amphetamine type substance users are often reluctant to enter and remain in treatment. Methamphetamine users tend to seek treatment only when the consequences of their use are severe.
  • Methamphetamine users often present with multiple complex needs.
  • High rates of treatment attrition and subsequent relapse is an issue, particularly among people with more severe dependence and longer duration of use.

What's Needed?

Alcohol and other drug services believe that more attention needs to be given to the treatment of people who experience problems related to amphetamine use and their families, friends and communities. These include:
  • Increased resources to support people who have problems related to amphetamine use to engage with services and to stay engaged for as long as necessary.
  • Harm reduction services designed to effectively engage with current users who are reluctant to enter formal treatment-to-abstinence.
  • Interventions that extend to behavioural management programs that support cognitive re-development and sustained motivation to achieve improvement.
  • A focus on psychosocial interventions - pharmacotherapy has limited impact for people who have problems related to amphetamine use.
  • Interventions that address the range of issues related to methamphetamine use, including improving physical and mental wellbeing, relationships and quality-of-life.
  • Exchange of information and experiences between services and with health and community services outside of the alcohol and other drug sector.

 Finding Information

Drug Aware provides information about amphetamines at www.amphets.com.au

Find Support

Support and information is available to people who experience problems related to amphetamine use, whether it be your own use, or that of a friend or family member. To learn more about the services available, please visit www.greenbook.org.au or call the Alcohol and Drug Information Service, which offers free, confidential counselling, referral and support 24/7, on (08) 9442 5000 or, for WA country callers, 1800 198 024.



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