Needle and syringe programs: your questions answered

Why do some drug users throw their needles and syringes away?

Page last updated: 2005

Some drug users inject in public places like toilets because they are young, homeless, or are very dependent on drugs and inject immediately after buying them. Drug users may also throw their injecting equipment away because they fear the police could use this equipment as evidence of drug use and arrest them. However, just as the vast majority of people do not litter, most people who inject drugs dispose of their used needles and syringes safely.

Some large cities have 'hot spots' where drug use and dealing are more visible. People who come from other areas to buy drugs may dispose of their equipment inappropriately which makes the problem of discarded needles and syringes in hot spots worse. Needle and Syringe workers visit many hot spots to collect discarded injecting equipment.

  • Needle and Syringe Programs collect used injecting equipment and encourage clients to dispose of used needles and syringes safely.

  • Inappropriate disposal of needles and syringes is a problem in some areas but Needle and Syringe Programs can help alleviate this.

Access Health, Salvation Army Primary Health Services, Victoria:

Needle and Syringe Programs play a vital public health role by undertaking two important functions: Distributing sterile injecting equipment, condoms, lubricant and other consumables; and providing information on various issues including sexually transmissible infections, blood borne viruses and referrals to specialist services. The success of Needle and Syringe Programs lie in the fact that they provide an immediate, confidential and anonymous service that has significantly reduced the spread of blood borne viruses.