By Tammy Rudduck
I am talking specifically about injectable drugs…not necessary ice or heroin, but steroids and tanning injectables. Steroid use in Queensland and in particular in South-East Queensland has increased significantly. Needle and Syringe Programs (NSPs) are seeing an increase with people requesting sterile injecting equipment for the use of steroids and other performance enhancing drugs.
Are these really a risk? Yes! Regardless of whether you are injecting yourself with illicit drugs or for cosmetic purposes, the risk of blood borne viruses like HIV and hepatitis are the same. Some might say that the risk is higher with cosmetic injectables due to the consumer having a lower knowledge of safe injecting practices. People who inject steroids are less likely to attend an NSP and/or receive education on safe injecting practices.
QuIHN – the Queensland Injecting Health Network – have offices in Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and Cairns. Some of the offices have reported an increase in performance enhancing drugs, particularly on the Gold Coast where the culture of a toned, tanned body may be more important. Unfortunately, we are seeing some inexperienced body builders wanting larger muscles and more definition, but are unaware of safe injecting practices; quite often getting someone else to inject for them in a potentially harmful way.
Tanning injectables, like Melanotan II are of particular concern as we are hearing stories of increased use of the illegal injectable drug that creates a darker skin colour through melanin production. Tanners often get their injections from other people also.
So, how is this a risk?
By blood transmission from person to person, often when the injector uses their finger to stop the bleeding on themselves and then the other person
Sharing injecting equipment including needles, syringes, tourniquets
Using equipment, tables or benches that have not been cleaned properly
Unsafe disposal of used needles and equipment
So, if you have been injected with steroids or tanning injectables without considering these possible risks speak with a QuIHN worker and get tested for HIV and hepatitis! For more information contact QuIHN on 1800 172 076, or the Community HIV Education and Prevention (CHEP) team at www.chep.hiv.