Safer Disposal Information
Drug paraphernalia can be obtained from needle exchange programmes around the country. Personal sharps bins are often given out with the needle exchange equipment to allow people to dispose of their drug paraphernalia safely. However, drug paraphernalia may be found in public places due to public injecting, the lack of a personal sharps bin and other reasons.
Drug paraphernalia, when it is not disposed of properly, is known as drug litter. Drug litter poses risks to the public and it should not be handled or disposed of without the proper equipment and adequate training. Drug litter can lead to needle stick injuries (where the skin is pierced or punctured with a needle) which can in turn lead to the individuals contacting a blood borne virus such as Hepatitis C or HIV.
What is drug paraphernalia
Drug paraphernalia is a term used to denote any equipment, product, or material that is modified for making, using, or concealing drugs, typically for recreational purposes. Here is a list of drug paraphernalia which is available in Ireland:
- Separate needle
- Separate barrel
- Vitamin C
- Pre-injection swabs
- Post-injection swab
- Personal sharps bin
Some other articles may be around drug paraphernalia which should also be seen as drug litter. This can include: bloody tissues, empty syringe packets, tinfoil which has been used to smoke drugs, homemade crack pipes and other articles with post injection blood on them.
Below is a short video which presents some commonly discarded drug paraphernalia.
What to do if you find drug litter?
Drug litter is hazardous. If you come across any drug litter, do not attempt to remove it yourself. Drug litter needs to be disposed of by people who have the proper equipment and who know how to dispose of it safely. Call your Local Authority to report what you have found and where. If the drug litter is in a public place, the Local Authority will dispose of it safely. If the drug litter is on private property, the Local Authority will be able to advise on how the property owner can dispose of it safety.
What are the risks?
The risks of contracting HIV, Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C from a discarded needle:
- It is very unlikely that HIV would be transmitted through an accidental needle stick injury, however a risk does exist. HIV dies in open-air very quickly – within a few moments. So, if there was HIV on the tip of the needle, and it got poked through your skin and into your bloodstream, it’s probably already dead and unable to infect you.
- Hepatitis B can live outside the body for 7 days and so the risk of contracting Hepatitis B from a needle stick is greater than that of contracting HIV.
- Hepatitis C can live outside the body for up to three weeks and so the risk of contracting this from a needle stick is greater than HIV and Hepatitis B.
- It is important to note that no definitive risk of contracting a blood borne virus through a needle stick has been calculated. It is important to take all precautions against receiving a needle stick injury and that, if you do, you attend medical services immediately.
What to do if you receive a needle stick injury?
If you pierce or puncture your skin with a used needle, follow this first aid advice immediately:
- Encourage the wound to bleed, ideally by holding it under running water.
- Wash the wound using running water and plenty of soap.
- Don’t scrub the wound while you’re washing it.
- Don’t suck the wound.
- Dry the wound and cover it with a waterproof plaster or dressing.
- Seek urgent medical advice - go to the nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department. You do not need to bring the needle with you. You do not need to know who used the needle previously.