Oxfordshire Drug and Alcohol Action Team



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and Information

Harm Reduction and Health

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Harm Reduction and Health

Needle Exchange | Safer Injecting | Blood Borne Viruses

Harm Reduction aims to reduce the risk of harm to the service user through advice and information, provision of needle exchange, and BBV vaccination and testing.

Needle Exchange:

Needle exchanges provide clean and sterile equipment to promote safer injecting and reduce the spread of blood borne viruses (BBVs). Injecting equipment provided can include needles, syringes and a bin to dispose of used equipment safely. The needle exchange will also arrange for the disposal of the used equipment. Needle exchange provision takes place in a number of different settings including pharmacies.

Services provided:

  • Clean injecting equipment and paraphernalia
  • Written harm reduction advice and information (including safer injecting and sexual health)
  • Condoms
  • General healthcare screening
  • Advice on immunisation and testing for blood borne viruses.

SWOP Services

In Oxfordshire needle exchange services are part of the Sterile Works for Oxfordshire Premises (SWOP) scheme.
SWOP services are provided at a number of pharmacies and venues across the county.

SWOP leaflet and maps

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Safer Injecting

There is no completely safe way of injecting drugs. Injecting carries a higher risk of overdose, vein damage and infection. However, following these key messages can reduce the risks.

Where possible please try to follow these guidelines:

  • Use a new, sterile needle and syringe for every injection
  • Get needles from needle exchange services. In Oxfordshire this is known as SWOP
  • Prepare, clean and clear the space where you are using
  • Use cooled boiled water
  • Dispose of works in a sin bin
  • Use your own paraphernalia and do not share, which includes spoons, filters, tourniquet, water, as well as needles and syringes
  • Use a filter
  • Clean the injecting site vigorously
  • Use the smallest amount of citric possible (you do not need the whole content of the sachet)
  • Use the smallest volume of water possible (your drugs should easily dissolve in 1ml of water or less)
  • Remove or loosen tourniquet before injecting
  • inject into the vein
  • Point the needle in the direction of the blood flow (towards the heart)
  • Puncture the skin with the finest point of the needle. Dark red blood in the syringe means you are in a vein
  • Test new gear by injecting with a small amount to gauge its strength
  • Inject slowly into the vein, do not press quickly down on the plunger
  • Remove the needle slowly, cap it and bin it
  • Use fine needles for fine veins, for example SWOP never share or 1ml orange packs
  • Apply pressure to the injection site to help stop bleeding and bruising after injecting
  • Rotate the site of injection.


  • Share any paraphernalia
  • Pre or back load into the syringe
  • Inject alone
  • Flush (draw blood) into a syringe at the end of the hit
  • Let anyone else use your injecting paraphernalia
  • Inject in front of non injectors.

Finding a vein

  • Relax
  • Keep warm
  • Flex your muscles
  • Put the injection site in warm water but do not inject if you are in the bath!
  • Use a tourniquet - do not make it too tight and release it as soon as you are ready to inject.

Injecting site wounds

  • If the area around the injecting site is swollen, hot red, or sore, seek medical attention.


  • If someone goes over call 999, put them in the recovery position and stay with them

  • If someone is showing any of the following signs call 999
    • The person is unconscious and
    • Not responding to pain
    • Breathing slowly or erratically
    • Snoring and cannot be woken
    • Turning blue
    • Being sick
    • Has taken a mix of drugs including alcohol and benzo's before using heroin
    • Has not gained full consciousness in 3 minutes.

For further information on safer injecting:

Contact the Harm Minimisation Service on 01865 455601

Read the Safer Injecting handbook, sixth edition - Exchange Supplies January 2006 or access the 5th addition online at

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Blood Borne Viruses (BBV)

There are many preconceived, usually incorrect, ideas about BBVs in relation to infection and vaccination. Here we have broken down each BBV that a drug user may be exposed to or be infected with, and offered you FACTS to be taken on board by users, their peers, their carers, family members and significant others.

Further advice and support is available through the Harm Minimisation Service,
Rectory Centre, Rectory Road, Oxford, OX4 1BU
01865 455601

OUT BBV and Overdose Prevention Workshops

Monthly Overdose Prevention and Response and Hepatitis C workshops, aimed at drug users and carers are delivered by OUT.

For more information please call: 01865 209111


The Latimer Suite
Bullingdon House
174B Bullingdon Road



Oxfordshire User Team (OUT)

Hepatitis C Testing

If you think you may have Hepatitis C, talk to your GP, or health adviser at
the Harrison Department, Radcliffe Infirmary, Woodstock Road, Oxford.

Walk in testing is available at the Harrison Department (no appointment needed) between 1:30pm and 2:30pm Monday to Friday.
For appointments phone 01865 246036

For further information, please go to www.oxfordhepc.co.uk

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