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Intravenous drug users and broken needles - A hidden risk?

Gray, Selena F.; Norfolk, Guy A.


Selena F. Gray

Guy A. Norfolk


Aims: To determine the frequency with which intravenous drug users (IDUs) experience broken needles during their injecting careers. Design: Cross-sectional survey. Participants: Seventy intravenous drug users held in police custody in Bristol between May and September 2002. Measurements: Self-reported history of experience of broken needles. Findings: Fourteen (20%, 95% CI 11-29%) had experienced a needle breaking while injecting. The total number of broken needles was 23, of which 14 (61%) were recovered, four by surgical intervention, and the remainder as a result of direct action by the individual. Of the 23 broken needles, nine (39%) were reported to be fresh needles, whereas the remainder were being re-used. Conclusions: IDUs may well experience, directly or indirectly, incidents involving broken needles during the course of their injecting careers. Given the potential for embolization and the risk of subsequent complications when this occurs, we recommend that harm minimization guidance should include advice about this potential hazard and the need for early action to retrieve broken needles.


Gray, S. F., & Norfolk, G. A. (2003). Intravenous drug users and broken needles - A hidden risk?. Addiction, 98(8), 1163-1166.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Aug 1, 2003
Journal Addiction
Print ISSN 0965-2140
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 98
Issue 8
Pages 1163-1166
Keywords broken needles, intravenous drug users, needle embolization
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Additional Information : This study highlighted that broken needles are a relatively common occurrence in intravenous drug use. It led to changes in drug education leaflets in the local health area, to inform users of the risks of this happening and advise on action if this occurs.

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