Needle Exchange Users on the Rise in Glasgow
Needle exchange services across Scotland have seen an increase of 115,000 new users in the last three years.
Young people injecting image and performance-enhancing drugs account for the surge in under 30-year olds attending IEP (Injecting Equipment Provision) outlets in Glasgow.
IEP outlets distribute drug paraphernalia free of charge and provide a broad range of services to intravenous users aged between 15-64 years old across Scotland.
An official report published by Information Service Division Scotland, showed NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde has the highest attendee rate across all 13 NHS Scotland Boards. An estimated 127,660 individuals are currently attending needle exchanges in Glasgow, a figure that has doubled since 2013-14.
According to the Scottish Government, understanding the varied needs of intravenous sub-groups is imperative in establishing successful distribution services. The largest sub-group of intravenous drug users, after those who inject heroin, are individuals injecting image and performance-enhancing drugs, also known as IPED users.
Such drugs include anabolic steroids, tanning agents, and growth hormones – all of which are popular within the bodybuilding and image-obsessed culture.
“I didn’t feel a pressure when I started at the gym in 2012, but nowadays I feel there is significantly more pressure than ever”- Grant Hutchison
Grant Hutchison, non-steroid user and previous member of Bannatyne Health Club, said: “I didn’t feel a pressure when I started at the gym in 2012, but nowadays I feel there is significantly more pressure than ever. Some men can be persuaded to become bigger with faster results as a vain, image-conscious attempt to find happiness
“I think steroid use will increase. Gym culture has grown like mad since 2013-14. It’ll keep growing until it becomes untrendy”
A 2016-17 IEP data report revealed there have been more new cases of IPED users under 30 years old than heroin users of the same age.
In direct response to the incline in young IPED users, NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde and Turning Point Scotland have established a specialised IPED clinic at the Glasgow Drug Crisis Centre.
The clinic opened its doors in 2010 and offers users a variety of services, including needle exchange, advice on how to inject safely, and information on the products they bring to inject.
John Campbell, manager at Glasgow’s IPED clinic, said of the user referral process: “Often, the person who sells steroids lets the client know about the service. It’s like a form of outreach and significant harm reduction”
Campbell also addressed the success of the clinic: “In the first four or five years, there was an increase in people using the service, but this has levelled off now. There has been a massive difference in how users choose drugs, which may be due to good provision outlets and advice”
The IPED clinic is anonymous and open every Tuesday evening, with drop-ins from 6pm-10pm.