IDRS Bulletin July 2009: Drug injection trends among participants in the Australian Needle and Syringe Program Survey, 2004–2008

Key findings

  • Rates of public injecting, daily injecting, use of a new needle and syringe, and receptive sharing remained stable over the period 2004 to 2008.
  • Approximately one third of Australian NSP Survey participants reported heroin and a further third reported methamphetamine as the last drug injected over the period 2004 to 2008.
  • Heroin and methamphetamine were the two most common drugs last injected in all states and territories except Tasmania and the Northern Territory. In NSW, Victoria and the ACT heroin was the more prevalent drug last injected, whilst in QLD, SA and WA methamphetamine was more prevalent.
  • Nationally, the proportion of survey participants reporting a pharmaceutical opioid as the last drug injected almost doubled over the last five years, from 8% in 2004 to 15% in 2008. Prevalence of pharmaceutical opioid injecting increased in all jurisdictions over the period 2004 to 2008, and pharmaceutical opioids were the most frequently reported drug last injected in the Northern Territory.
  • Hepatitis C antibody prevalence was consistently high among respondents that reported last injecting heroin, cocaine, methadone or pharmaceutical opioids, lower among those last injecting methamphetamine and lowest among those last injecting steroids in all of the past five years.
  • While there were very low rates of HIV antibody prevalence in all of the past five years, methamphetamine was the mostly commonly reported drug last injected among HIV antibody positive participants, the majority of whom identified as bisexual or homosexual males.