Injecting drug users in Glasgow and surrounding areas are being urged to follow safer practices following a number of cases of Botulism in recent weeks. 

In a direct response to the Botulism cases Turning Point Scotland Glasgow Drug Crisis Centre is handing out foil as part of their harm reduction strategy in a bid to reduce the health risks associated with injecting.

It is not advisable to use ordinary household foil due to the oils contained in the product sold in shops.

John Campbell, Improvement and Development Manager for Injecting Providers, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said:

“The provision of foil has been a long time coming and it’s came at the right time. We ran a pilot in all our community addiction teams for the past three and half months and we were then looking to roll it out to all needle exchanges across NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

“The Botulism cases have really encouraged us to bring this into Turning Point Scotland’s Glasgow Drug Crisis Centre quicker than planned.  In the first week or so they gave out over ten packs which is fairly encouraging. It’s a 24 hour exchange so other exchanges are able to direct clients here.

John explains that using foil eliminates a number of injecting complications such as abscesses, ulcers and cellulitis.  It also reduces risk to blood borne viruses, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV.

Patricia Tracey, Service Manager at the Glasgow Drug Crisis Centre says:

“We provide a service that responds to changes in drug trends, practices and health issues and this is an example of that. We are glad that we are able to offer an alternative to injecting.

“Smoking heroin doesn’t come without risks, but by giving out foil we are providing a safer alternative option for the people we support.”

“There are benefits to the individual, to the community if there’s less injecting equipment lying about, and ultimately there are benefits to society because of the reduction in cost of treating injecting related complications.

John Campbell said there are other risk-reducing practices people can follow if they are not inhaling:

“Of course the most obvious thing that people could do is to stop using heroin. If we take a pragmatic response to that, very few people are likely to do that. It’s easy to say if people are dying they will stop but we’ve got nearly 500 drug related deaths every year and a large percentage of them happen in this city.

“So death isn’t something that puts people off using heroin. If you can’t stop using heroin then move away from injecting to smoking. If you are unable to do that then be very careful injecting and try to go directly into a vein. I think staff have a part to play here, front line staff especially, and that includes pharmacy staff providing needle exchange services; they are able to talk to clients about these risks.

Turning Point Scotland Glasgow Drug Crisis Centre is handing out a postcard and pocket sized information booklet warning people with the symptoms of Botulism to seek urgent medical help.

You can download the Scottish Drug Forum’s information booklet Wound Botulism and Drug Use: What Workers Need to Know