Scant evidence for drug needle spike in Mandurah

Some residents are worried about the prevalence of discarded needles.
Scant evidence for drug needle spike in Mandurah
Some residents are worried about the prevalence of discarded needles.

MANDURAH residents are becoming increasingly frustrated by the needles for drugs that are being left in public places.

Michael Utteridge said he was disgusted when he found a needle on the ground at the Mandurah Forum carpark.

A spokesman for the Forum said they cleaned the carpark and gardens regularly.

“This is designed to ensure these areas are clean and presentable for the public,” he said. “If a needle is discovered as part of the cleaning program, there is a prescribed method for handling and disposing of the needle in a safe manner.”

Mr Utteridge said friends of his had also found needles around Mandurah.

He said one of these needles was found near a primary school.

Riverside Primary School principal Deborah Bloor said the last report her school had received regarding drug needles found near the school was two years ago.

Needle exchange program encourages intravenous drug users to use the service.

In 2013, it was reported that 30,000 needles were exchanged each month at the Needle and Syringe Exchange Program (NESP) on Tuckey Street.

That number has increased in 2015 by 3000 needles a month.

Palmerston Association chief executive Sheila McHale said 33,000 needles exchanged in the last month is 33,000 needles that don’t end up on the streets.

“While the local Mandurah team at Palmerston are not aware of any increase in needles on the streets or in parks, it is possible that new drug users may not know that there is a safe non-judgmental way of disposing of used needles, as well as accessing clean needles,” she said.

“On average we exchange 30,000 needles per month to more than 300 people.”

Ms McHale said the people using the service were respectful and understood the importance of minimising harm to themselves and the community.

“Our service is word of mouth however,” she said.

“So with increasing meth (amphetamine) use in the community, (which can be injected or smoked) there are people we would like to reach to offer them a way of keeping them and the community safe.”

The typical drug user is older and a third of heroin users are more than 40 years old, according to the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC).

Their 2015 Illicit Drug Reporting System national survey found that the majority of intravenous drug users were injecting heroin, followed by methamphetamine.

Their report Drug Trends 2001-2013 found that methamphetamine use has increased by 6 per cent among people who inject drugs.

Their data revealed that 67 per cent of people who inject drugs used crystal methamphetamine.

Frequency of heroin use increased among people who used drugs to an average of every second day.

The report said heroin use remains low among the broader Australian population at less than 1 per cent in 2010.

People who receive a needle-stick injury should wash the injury and seek medical advice.

Local GP Rupert Backhouse said in his years of practice he had never known someone to contract a disease from a needle stick injury.

He said he was cynical of statistics published in relation to drug use.

“I don’t think more people are injecting drugs; the variety of drugs has changed and the purity of methamphetamine has changed,” he said.

“People have been injecting forever.”

Dr Backhouse said people injected drugs because it was quick-acting, more efficient and users got the same high from smaller amounts.

He said people who used intravenous drugs in public places “just don’t care”.

“They try to keep it hidden from their associates and family,” he said.

Dr Backhouse said members of the public needed to be less judgemental about people using intravenous drugs and let them know there are safe places to exchange needles.

“If everyone is honest, they all show addictive behaviour,” he said. “There’s a prejudice against drug users, who are no different to people drinking alcohol.”

He encouraged people to make sure their immunisations against hepatitis B were up to date.

There are nine sharps containers for the disposal of drug needles in the City of Mandurah.

A City of Mandurah spokesperson said they met regularly with health care professionals, including the Department of Health and Palmerston, to monitor trends in needle exchanges and assist with community education.

Sharps containers are located at the Eastern Foreshore, Hall Park, Marina South Harbour, Marina Town Beach, Mewburn Centre, Peel Street, Madora Bay Central, Madora Bay South and Milgar Reserve (Caterpillar Park).