Project identifies drug trends among injecting drug users
Findings of Syringe Analysis Pilot Project launched
August 12, 2022
A pilot project aimed at highlighting the latest drug trends among injecting drug users in Ireland has confirmed the presence of new psychoactive substances on the drug market.
The findings of the Syringe Analysis Pilot Project were launched by the HSE and Merchants Quay Ireland (MQI). Syringe analysis is a scientific approach that involves obtaining information through the analysis of the content of used syringes to help identify drug use trends at that particular point in time.
The findings can be used to inform tailored prevention interventions. The pilot project involved obtaining 155 used syringes from the Dublin and Midlands region to identify the latest injecting drug trends. Eleven of these syringes were excluded because they did not contain any active substance or they contained a metabolite.
In total, 32 different drugs and metabolites were found. Heroin was the most prominent injected drug (93% in Dublin and 98% in the Midlands).
According to the HSE’s national clinical lead of addiction services, Prof Eamon Keenan, “the volatile nature of the drug market is a healthcare concern as new and more potent substances, including synthetic opioids, continue to emerge on the European drug market.
“I am pleased to see that this project did not identify the emergence of synthetic opioids in the syringe samples, although we must continue to monitor this situation closely.
“However, through this pilot project we have confirmed the presence of new psychoactive substances on the drug market and the re-emergence of cocaine injecting. These findings require tailored health responses and further monitoring,” Prof Keenan said.
New substances found included synthetic cathinone 3-MMC (11% in Dublin, 24% in the Midlands). Higher levels of methamphetamine use were also noted (33% in Dublin and 18% in the Midlands), as was the possible injection of the benzodiazepine, flurazepam, in the Midlands region (13%).
Cocaine injecting re-emerged as part of a polydrug pattern (87% in Dublin and 89% in the Midlands).
According to Paula Byrne, CEO of MQI, the data from this project “complements existing data on substances by providing timely and local information”.
“It was important to include samples from both Dublin and the Midlands. The analysis shows that substance use and trends differed across the two locations. The evidence from this pilot highlights the need to conduct this analysis on an ongoing basis,” she commented.
The HSE added that this pilot demonstrates the successful collaboration between a harm reduction service and a laboratory to identify drug trends to inform health-led responses. These findings can now be used to inform interventions provided by MQI and other similar services.
A report on the pilot project can be viewed here.