NICE calls for more needle exchange support for steroid users

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Needle and syringe programmes need to do more to support people who use image and performance-enhancing drugs, according to NICE (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence). Despite an estimated 60,000 anabolic steroid users in the UK, it remains a ‘grey area’ for needle exchange services, says the institute.

NICE’s updated guidance recommends that needle and syringe programmes and commissioners make sure that users of image and performance-enhancing drugs have access to all the equipment they need, as well as calling for effective area-wide strategies to meet the needs of young people.

‘Needle and syringe programmes have been a huge success story in the UK – they are credited with helping stem the Aids epidemic in the ’80s and ’90s,’ said director of NICE’s centre for public health, Professor Mike Kelly. ‘However, we are now seeing a completely different group of people injecting drugs. They do not see themselves as “drug addicts” – quite the contrary, they consider themselves to be fit and healthy people who take pride in their appearance. These services must continue to be configured in the most effective way to reach and support the people who need them the most, wherever they live, and protect their health as much as possible.’

Meanwhile, the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Faculty of Addiction Psychiatry is calling on the government to boost support to services treating people for gambling addiction. Although almost 500,000 people in the UK are estimated to have a gambling disorder, services are under-developed and remain funded almost exclusively by the gambling industry. The document wants to see the government ‘recognise gambling disorder as a public health responsibility’ to enable treatment to be provided by existing drug and alcohol services.

‘Increasingly based on strong partnerships between the NHS and voluntary sector, community services have the experience and expertise to work towards helping people with a gambling disorder,’ said the document’s co-author Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones. ‘Extending treatment to the “third addiction” of gambling could deliver similar benefits, and would help ensure that care is joined-up, efficient, and seamless.’

NICE guidance on needle and syringe programmes (PH52) at guidance.nice.org.uk

Gambling: the hidden addiction at www.rcpsych.ac.uk