Changing Drug use in the UK

injection drug newsFor many years, heroin and cocaine have been the most commonly injected drugs in the UK. While they remain the most common, there are a range of new injectable drugs that are quickly gaining popularity.

Some of the most popular up and coming drugs are amphetamines or drugs similar to amphetamines like mephedrone, anabolic steroids and even a new and untested tanning drug called melanotan which is designed to darken user’s skin tone.

 The use of amphetamines and similar drugs alone has increased by almost three fold in the last ten years. This has researchers worried as this emerging group of injection drug users are far more likely to engage in dangerous drug taking practices like sharing injection equipment. They are also far less prone to get tested for HIV and hepatitis C.

In some portions of the UK the shift to these new types of drugs, known as image and performance enhancing drugs (IPED) are the largest group of people accessing needle and syringe programs. While it is encouraging to see that some drug users are taking steps to prevent disease, the numbers are still worrying.

According to the report published by Public Health England, people injecting IPEDs had a one in 10 chance of being exposed to HIV, hepatitis C or hepatitis B.

Dr Vivian Hope, who presented the studied findings to the Society for the Study of Addiction annual scientific symposium said, "In the UK, we're seeing growing use of image and performance enhancing drugs and signs of a recent increase in the injection of 'club' drugs and amphetamine-type stimulants. These changes could impact on our public health success in controlling HIV and hepatitis B among people who inject drugs, such as the proportion of people who inject drugs ever infected with hepatitis B falling from 29% in 2002 to 17% in 2012. The potential impact of the changing patterns of drug use must be explored, and the implications for research, service provision and harm reduction carefully considered."

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