The number of injection outlets created for the supply of safe equipment to drug users has increased in the past few years, although less needles are being given out.
The NHS assists problem drug users with supplies of equipment to help prevent the transmission of blood borne viruses such as hepatitis C and HIV, resulting in reducing the associated healthcare costs of these viruses.
New data released by Public Health Scotland shows the increase of injecting equipment provision outlets in Scotland over the past 13 years.
In 2007/8, there were 19 facilities in the NHS Grampian area, 15 of those offered by pharmacies and four by agencies. The most recent data available which was for 2019/20, show there are now 30 in the region.
According to Public Health Scotland, it is estimated there are around 3,800 problem drug users in the north-east.
In 2019/20, 16,938 attendances were recorded at outlets, however this is a decrease from the 32,401 recorded in 2007/8. Of those recorded in the past year, 13,015 were men and 3,920 were women.
The number of needles being given out to drug users by north-east health bosses has also dropped for the last three years running.
More than 350,000 syringes were handed to addicts by NHS Grampian in 2019/20, which is compared to more than 400,000 in 2018/19 and 468, 114 the year before. This works out at around 93 needles per estimated problem drug user in the last year.
The official statistics also show that more than 12,000 sharps bins, more than 260,000 spoons and 45,000 sheets of foil were also given out in the north-east last year.
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An NHS Grampian spokeswoman said: “Needle exchanges offer a real opportunity to engage with people who inject drugs and reduce harms such as Hepatitis C, HIV, wound infections, overdose and drug related death.
“Services in Grampian continue to develop and expand to offer easy access to support through specialist drug services, clinical teams and community pharmacy. This includes overdose awareness training and naloxone supply which can buy time for an ambulance to arrive when faced with an opiate overdose situation. Anyone who might witness overdose can be trained.
“During the Covid-19 pandemic pharmacies continue to provide needle exchange as normal and specialist services have adapted to continue this essential work. Information on services across Grampian can be found by calling ADA on 0333 3 448 355 or online at www.alcoholanddrugsaction.org.uk”
An Aberdeenshire ADP spokeswoman said: “Providing this type of equipment in a safe and non-judgemental environment is vital to protecting people’s health, supporting recovery and preventing further harm to individuals and communities.”