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.