This report summarises the findings of a recent member survey conducted by the National Needle Exchange Forum into the provision of aluminium foil through Needle and Syringe Programmes in the UK.
Foil is provided as a harm reduction and route transition initiative, intended to facilitate injecting heroin users in moving away from their injecting behaviour towards a less harmful route of drug administration. However, this intervention is currently prohibited by the UK ‘paraphernalia law’ (Section 9A of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971).
- The 445 respondents who took part in the survey comprised NSP workers (45.2%), NSP managers (18.9%), service users (5.2%) or service commissioners (4.8%). 25.9% indicated that they worked in ‘other roles’ (including pharmacists and nurses).
- Only 66 (15%) of the 445 survey respondents reported that their NSP provided aluminium foil to their clients.
- The majority of those whose NSP did not provide aluminium foil reported that the main reason for this was the current legal situation. In addition, over a third of those whose NSP did provide aluminium foil still reported that the current legal situation was still a problem.
- The majority of the survey respondents supported the provision of aluminium foil and viewed foil provision as a useful harm reduction intervention for both heroin and crack cocaine users.
- Most respondents also agreed that foil distribution would help reduce injecting drug related harms and increase the attendance and engagement of injecting drug users in services.
- Most respondents also agreed that foil distribution by NSPs would improve the attendance and early engagement of non-injecting drug users who are currently not seen by services.
- Crucially, the clear majority of the respondents (81.1%) ‘strongly agreed’ that the law should be changed to allow for the legal supply of foil in needle exchange services. – Overall, the service user respondents were also very supportive of the provision of aluminium foil in NSPs.
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