Syringe and Needle Safety

Whilst we at Addiction Helper do our utmost to help people come off the drugs and get into long-term recovery, we are not naïve enough to think that every single person is necessarily ready to begin that journey, and so here I would like to talk a little bit about syringe and needle safety. This is in no way promoting drug use, but encouraging the safest methods of drug use if that is the choice taken. There may also be some information that loved ones find useful.

syringe-and-needle-safetyWhat is the difference between a syringe and a needle?

The syringe is the part of the implement where the drug is stored, so the reservoir if you like. The needle is the sharp part that enters the body. Sometimes the whole thing (needle, reservoir and plunger) is referred to as a syringe.

Shared needles

These days there is a wealth of information regarding the dangers of catching blood-bourne viruses by sharing needles, but not everyone suffering with heroin addiction knows about needle exchange programmes. These are designed as a method of harm reduction by eliminating unsafe practices. The provide access to sterile syringes, and other such equipment such as swabs and sterile water. These services will also provide education around safe injecting practice, needle disposal and information about substitution services should they be required. In order to find your local needle exchange visit

Arteries vs veins

Arteries are the vessels that carry oxygenated (bright red) blood away from the heart. Never inject into an artery. This could cause serious blood loss resulting in the loss of a limb or death. Attempting to inject into an artery should result in the plunger being pushed back by the pressure of the blood flow.

Veins carry blood back to the heart and are very dark red, almost purple in colour. Veins have no pulse.

Size of the needle

The basic thing to remember is the smaller the thickness of the needle, the safer. Larger needles cause more damage. The thickness of the needle is indicated by colour, orange being the thinnest, followed by blue, then green.

This is obviously a really basic summary of syringe and needle safety. If further information is required, please do feel free to comment and we will help you as best we can.


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