Steroids users “muscling in” on needle exchange programs

Increasing numbers of illegal steroid users are obtaining free injecting equipment from needle exchange programs, youth workers say.

Managers of needle and syringe exchange programs are reporting a rise in the numbers of young men using late-night mobile services, particularly in Melbourne’s northern and western suburbs.

A survey of the preferred “drug of choice” of drug users collecting needles and syringes found that steroids ranked third, behind heroin and amphetamines/methamphetamines.

In central Melbourne steroids ranked fourth.

Outreach staff are said to be worried about the increase in first-time needle users who lack basic knowledge about injecting drugs.

Melanie Raymond, chief executive of the not-for-profit Youth Projects, said staff also had concerns about steroid users sharing needles in the mistaken belief that infectious diseases were not a risk when injecting performance-enhancing drugs.

“Those involved with gyms and sporting clubs often don’t identify as drug users. Rather they see themselves as fit and healthy,” she said.

Ms Raymond said the increase may be linked to “the growing rise in gym junkies and the trend to looking buff”.

The survey was conducted for the first time this year, but Ms Raymond said steroids had not shown up in significant levels in earlier surveys.

Danny Jeffcote, needle and syringe team leader at Innerspace in Fitzroy, said steroid use was not limited to athletes.

“There are people using those drugs because of work-related reasons,” he said. “People that work in jobs that are physically demanding, and jobs with concerns over body image.” Builders and bouncers were among the most common occupations, he said.

Steroid use is also on the rise nationally, with the latest Australian Crime Commission statistics showing steroid-linked arrests and seizures in 2011-12 the highest on record.

Youth Projects has operated fixed and mobile needle exchange programs in the CBD and Melbourne’s northern and western suburbs since 1990. They hand out almost 1 million free syringes a year in 50 suburbs.

The service says it has established local forums to help better understand the steroid trend and to distribute information packs to users.

Needle exchange programs aim to prevent the transmission of blood-borne viruses through the provision of clean injecting equipment and advice, and safe needle and syringe disposal units.

Operating often from a car, mobile exchanges provide free equipment and advice all year round.

The Australian National Council on Drugs has recently called for increased government funding and support for the programs after it was found that for every $1 spent on healthcare in this area, state and federal governments saved about $27.
Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/illegal-steroid-users-muscling-in-on-needle-exchange-programs-20131127-2y9wr.html#ixzz2lrkrNbvH

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