Injecting Advice

Snapping Needles

Written by Nigel Brunsdon on . Posted in .

This isn’t an article about needles accidentally snapping, but instead the idea of deliberately snapping a pin after use to prevent it from ever being usable as a form of harm reduction.

Like all good needle programmes we supply people with secure sharps bins (cin bins) for people to return used equipment in. But studies have shown (Taylor et al 2004) that sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures. In desperate times people don’t always make the best or safest decisions.

Let’s think about this though. Most injectors know the risks of reuse, and most of the time would choose not to reuse. The decision to reuse is often directly as a result of an impulse, and an imbalance of availability (ie not enough sterile, but plenty of used needles). Pin snapping is another strategy to remove temptation to reuse in times of desperation, after all if someone can make sure a needle isn’t reusable at all while there is sterile kit around then there will be no temptation to reuse when sources are low. (In a previous article I talked about people having spare needles put aside for ’emergencies’.)

How to do it

It’s possible to buy needle clippers (as seen in the image above) which will cut the needle itself, I’ve kept a small stock of these before to give out to people. These normally store the needle as well and can hold plenty of them safely and securely.

snapping needlesIf your needle programme supplies 1ml BD insulin fixed units another option is available. Once one of these needle has been used you can to recap it, then, holding it firmly just below the cap you tap the cap on a table edge (as shown). The end will go flying, but once you find it you’ll see that the entire end of the syringe and needle has snapped off and is now safely contained in the cap itself.

Of course this advice isn’t going to be used by everyone; for a lot of people a used pin is kept as a safety net just in case they can not access a new one. For others reuse is not something they would ever do.

Snapping pins might be a good option for folks in relationships, who wanted to make sure their partner or friends don’t accidentally reuse equipment that may contain HepC or something else they don’t want to risk sharing. This also might be a good option for folks who would prefer not to reuse but due to desperation have reused in the past.

I’ve given pin clippers out before with some success, and I’ve also shown plenty of injectors how to tap off the end of a BD, which I have to say, normally gets the reaction “Cool!”

Writer: Nigel Brunsdon

Nigel Brunsdon is the owner of Injecting Advice. He’s been working in harm reduction since the 1990’s, previously a frontline needle programme worker he now splits his time between photography and developing online resources for drugs workers and users.

Nigel Brunsdon

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