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The injecting process

Here’s how to minimise the risks of slamming and its aftermath.

  • Try not to touch anything that hasn’t been cleaned until you’ve finished injecting.
  • Warm your arm and let it hang down to build up blood pressure.
  • Use a tourniquet and place it above the site where you plan to inject. If you tie the tourniquet too tight you could cut off your blood supply and have difficulties finding a vein – you should still be able to feel your pulse.
  • With a clean swab, firmly wipe the injection site once.
  • Put the needle into your arm at a 45-degree angle with the hole facing up.
  • Pull back the plunger and blood should appear. If it doesn’t then you’re not in the vein. In that case you’ll need to pull the needle out, take the tourniquet off and apply pressure with a cotton ball to stop any bleeding.
  • When you’re sure the needle is in the vein, loosen the tourniquet before you slowly inject your drugs. If you feel pain or resistance, you may not be in the vein, in which case you’ll need to start again.
  • Keeping the arm straight, remove the needle and apply pressure to the injecting site for a couple of minutes (use cotton wool or tissue). Don’t use a swab as this won’t stop the bleeding.

Don’t flush

‘Flushing’ (drawing up blood through the needle, into the syringe, to mix with the drugs) won’t give you a bigger hit – it doesn’t increase the amount of drugs you inject.

When you flush, it’s impossible to avoid some movement of the needle. This will further damage, and shorten the life of your veins.

Cleaning up

  • Recap your needle and syringe and put it in a safe disposal container, ready to go back to your local needle exchange once your session has finished.
  • Never recap other people’s needles and syringes.
  • Clean the area that you’ve used for injecting with household bleach. If you have no bleach, use warm soapy water.
  • Throw everything out that has been used and opened.
  • When you’ve cleaned up, wash your hands and arms thoroughly with warm soapy water. If you can’t, use swabs.
  • Store all equipment in a clean and safe space.

Read more about safer injecting on the Exchange Supplies website.

How to clean equipment

One day you might feel you have no option but to share, so it’s useful to know how injecting equipment can be cleaned. However, it’s important to note that it’s never advisable to share needles as they can transfer viruses and bacteria and put you at risk of HIV and hepatitis B and C.

In their leaflet for professionals working with people who inject drugs (Substance Use and Pharmaceutical Care), NHS Education for Scotland explains how to clean a syringe:

  • first, rinse the syringe and any other equipment to be re-used several times with clean, cold water
  • second, flood it with undiluted household bleach
  • third, rinse out the bleach with more clean, cold water.

You can read more in-depth information on Page 15 of the British Liver Trust’s leaflet A Professional’s Guide to Hepatitis C and Injecting Drug Use.

It’s impossible to guarantee that ‘cleaned’ equipment is safe to use. Although bleach can be effective when it comes to reducing the spread of hepatitis B and HIV from syringes, this isn’t the case when it comes to hepatitis C. The best course of action is to use new, clean equipment rather than taking a risk.

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‹‹ Previous: Preparing to inject

Published: 30/08/2018
Next review: 30/08/2021