27/01/2005

Research reveals extent of drug use in NI

A new report into behavioural habits of injecting drug users in Northern Ireland has found that almost one in three people who use needles to inject drugs have been diagnosed with Hepatitus C.

The research entitled ‘Drug Use and Risk Behaviours among Injecting Drug Users’ was commissioned by the Drug and Alcohol Information and Research Unit on behalf of the Information and Research Working Group.

Among its other findings, the average age a user first injected was 23-years-old while three-quarters had injected heroin on that first occasion.

Almost all of those who had injected in the 30 days prior to interview had injected with new needles and syringes. However, most had used other equipment such as filters, spoons/stericups, and water that had been used by another injector.

Almost one-third (30%) reported that they had been diagnosed with hepatitis C, almost one-fifth (19%) had been fully immunised against hepatitis B while 15% had never been tested for HIV antibodies.

Nearly 40% of those interviewed were taking prescribed benzodiazepines, whereas others purchased them on the street or on the internet, or obtained them from partners, relatives or friends. Most had no knowledge of the dangers of withdrawal.

Based on the findings of the research report the authors made a number of recommendations relating to: the distribution of information on the risks associated with all aspects injecting drug use; the further expansion of existing initiatives and services available to injecting drug users; and the need for research on the use of benzodiazepines among injecting drug users.

Dr Karen McElrath of Queens University and Michele Jordan conducted the research during the period December 2003 to September 2004.

(MB/SP)

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