Needle and syringe programs: your questions answered

Will the distribution of needles and syringes increase injecting drug use?

Page last updated: 2005

Needle and Syringe Programs are established in areas where injecting drug use is already occurring. No study has ever found that the introduction of a Needle and Syringe Program contributed to increased levels of injecting drug use. In fact, studies have reported decreases in drug use following the introduction of Needle and Syringe Programs because they act as a referral point for clients wanting to begin drug treatment.

In Australia, the proportion of the population who reported having recently injected drugs remained stable between 1995 and 2001 and decreased in 2004. If Needle and Syringe Programs encouraged injecting drug use, it would be expected that, all other factors remaining equal, the proportion of the population who reported having recently injected drugs would have increased rather than decreased.

A World Health Organization review concluded that Needle and Syringe Programs do not encourage more frequent injection of drugs or increase the recruitment of new injecting drug users. Injecting drug users who attend Needle and Syringe Programs are more likely to reduce or stop injecting drugs than those who do not attend.

  • There is strong evidence that Needle and Syringe Programs do not increase injecting drug use.

  • Needle and Syringe Programs refer clients into drug treatment services.

Scott Wilson, Director, Aboriginal Drug and Alcohol Council (SA) Inc.:

The Aboriginal Drug and Alcohol Council (SA) fully supports Needle and Syringe Programs. Without these Programs we believe we would see a catastrophic rise in blood borne viral infections amongst Indigenous people. Needle and Syringe Programs are essential harm minimisation tools that from our point of view are stepping stones to abstinence. We see Needle and Syringe Programs as being readily accessible by community members who do inject drugs. We are fully supportive of any Needle and Syringe Programs that can address these issues.