Vital service must continue

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THE number of drug users who are exchanging needles in Fife is on the rise again, at a time where the future of the needle exchange programme in the region looks uncertain.

Last year more than 16,000 visits were made to pharmacies and agencies in Fife in order to access drug paraphernalia, including needles, antiseptic swabs and even heating spoons.

The number is a sharp rise from the previous year, which saw 12,365 contacts from drug users.

The figures, released by Scotland’s Information Services Division (ISD), also revealed that needles were mostly obtained in order to inject opiates such as heroin, however, it also indicated a rise in needles being used for performance and image enhancing drugs like steroids.

Decrease

Angela Swift, clinical service manager for NHS Fife addiction services, said the most recent figures are, however, showing a decrease again.

She said: “The number of individuals using needle exchange services in Fife has decreased by 15.5 per cent from years 09/10 - 10/11 and the number of contacts has decreased by 6.6 per cent over the same period. 

“There is no direct evidence as to why these numbers have decreased, however it may suggest drug users have easier access to treatment services, or that drug users are moving to oral substitutes.”

Fluctuating

The fluctuating figures come at a time where the future of the needle exchange service in Fife is unclear.

The service is currently co-ordinated by NHS Fife Addiction Services, and is provided through a number of agencies including Frontline Fife and The Zone.

However, current funding for the coming years could see that changed, and although provision has been put forward to continue the service, recommendations include one main body to carry out all needle provision, with a view to joining up services and eliminating duplication.

Billy Lynch, from Frontline Fife, said the agency will continue to provide needle exchange until decisions are made in September.