The Exchange: Issue 38; 2017

Harm Reduction News from Around the World

Summer’s Over….

We are in the midst of Hurricane Season and the trauma that this brings.  ABC News reported that needle exchange and drug treatment services in Miami, Florida, supplied users with up to one weeks additional supplies in advance of Hurricane Irma to ensure that users were not left short in the aftermath of the storm.  Research carried out by Andrew Golub of the National Development & Research Institutes in New York after Hurricane Katrina found that many users abandoned their recovery programs or did not follow harm reduction principles after the storm due to feeling additional stress from the storm itself or from not being able to access treatment clinics.  Many users who were unable to access their prescribed Methadone dose returned to heroin to avoid withdrawal sickness.

In many cases, users put themselves at additional risk by disobeying orders to evacuate at risk areas so that they could stay close to their dealer.  Golub also found that the practice of sharing needles increased dramatically during storms as users were unable to attend needle exchange services.

Medically Supervised Injecting Rooms

A tender has been published by the Health Service Executive in Ireland, seeking a suitable service provider to run a medically supervised injecting facility in Dublin City Centre area on a pilot basis; the pilot phase will be envisaged for an 18 month period with an evaluation at 6 months and again at 18 months. The facility will operate by means of a Licence to be granted under recent legislation. The service will provide for adults who use drugs who are on the premises of the supervised injecting facility with the permission of the licence holder, for the purposes of consuming drugs by injection only.

Growing public anger has led to pressure being applied for the closure of a pop-up drug-use site in Lowertown, Ottawa.  Local residents are claiming that their park has been taken over by drug users.  The site has had over 440 visits during the first two weeks.  Organisers of the exchange claim to have received death threats from local activists.

Meanwhile, in Melbourne, Australia, a bill proposed by Fiona Patten MP, which calls for an 18-month trial of a medically supervised injecting centre in North Richmond has been rejected by the local government.  This came despite compelling scientific evidence in favour of supervised injecting facilities.

Novel Idea from Spain

Authorities in the Spanish city of Bilbao have started distributing special cards to people to help them crush cocaine prior to snorting.  The credit card sized card bears a warning message and is designed to help prevent the spread of blood-borne infections.
The scheme was devised by the Bilbao City Council’s Health Department and is only available to adults who engage with the local harm reduction facility, request information about harm reduction and who complete a personal interview on drug use.
The main aim of this program is to prevent the spread of Hepatitis C.

If you share a rolled up note or straw for snorting drugs, you risk exposing yourself and others to Hepatitis C.  This is especially true if your nose is bleeding.  Cocaine, in particular is very alkaline and corrosive to membranes in the nose.  If even tiny drops of your blood – often too small to see – get into the straw or note, it is quite possible that blood to blood contact may take place through the nasal membrane.

UK’s Hepatitis C Trust