Injecting-related harm and treatment-seeking behaviour among injecting drug users

Addiction. 1997 Oct;92(10):1349-52.


Aims: This study aims to identify the physical harm associated with injecting drug use and examine the treatment-seeking behaviour of injecting drug users (IDUs). Specific attention is given to the factors associated with presentation and non-presentation of injecting-related problems.

Design: Participants were interviewed by research staff using a semi-structured questionnaire, then physically examined by a medical team.

Setting: Needles exchanges in Glasgow.

Participants: One hundred and twelve injecting drug users.

Findings: Respondents' accounts of their current injecting-related problems were found to be consistent with the clinician's findings, suggesting that IDUs are able to self-diagnose injecting-related harm. However, almost three-quarters had not sought help for these problems. Qualitative data suggest the main reasons for non-presentation, or delayed presentation, of injecting-related problems are normalization of injecting-related harm and a reluctance to attend available services. Almost half of those seeking treatment for injecting-related problems did so during an emergency or crisis.

Conclusions: Low threshold services, such as needle exchanges, may have to take a more proactive stance to encourage injectors to present with injecting-related problems. This may help reduce injecting-related harms, especially the resulting medical complications, which would in turn relieve the pressure on other services such as hospital Accident and Emergency Departments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abscess / etiology
  • Abscess / therapy
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Methadone / therapeutic use
  • Narcotics / therapeutic use
  • Needle-Exchange Programs*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care*
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / complications*
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / drug therapy
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / therapy*
  • Thrombosis / etiology
  • Thrombosis / therapy


  • Narcotics
  • Methadone