Injecting Safely

Sterile equipment

Wherever possible, use all new and sterile injecting equipment. This is the ideal for every time you inject. So when you go to the NSP try and load up on as much equipment as you can. In NSW equipment is free from NSPs so at least it won’t cost you money to do so. There are sometimes reasons you end up not having enough new equipment. We’ve included info on bleaching and flushing below but do try and get enough clean equipment to use freshies as often as possible.


General hygiene

Some people find it worthwhile to lay out all the equipment in the order in which they use it to make the process smoother and quicker.

Get your hands as clean as you can to remove as much bacteria, dried blood, viruses, and dirt as possible. If you don’t have access to running warm water and soap, remember to get extra swabs and use one of these for each finger (and thumb!)

Try to get your prep surface as clean as possible. Even wipe it down with warm, soapy water (if possible) or brush away any dust or dirt. This will lessen the chance of floaties ending up in your mix. (Or put down a clean book, magazine, CD case, newspaper or the brown bag the equipment comes in).



Alcohol swabs clean away dirt and bacteria but not viruses like hepatitis or HIV. Clean spoons or any equipment (like pocket knives or keys) that come in contact with the drugs to be injected.

Use them on the injection site to clean away dirt or bits that can enter into the bloodstream with the needle as it punctures the skin and cause nasties like abscesses, septicemia and endocardi

Use the swab on the cleaned site by wiping across the area once with a new swab. Rubbing back and forth with them spreads dirt and germs around.



The ideal water to use for injection will depend on your situation. Usually the sterile water ampoules you can get in most NSPs are the safest option. This should be used for the one mix only and then discarded. Don’t re-cap and put it in the fridge. This is because bacteria loves sterile water and grows very easily in it. This principle goes for all water.

When you can’t get this water, use boiled water drawn up from near the surface, as heavy metals sink to the bottom and shouldn’t be injected. Ideally you should try to wait until this has cooled to room temperature. This is for two reasons: Firstly; hot water going in stings and damages your veins. Ssecondly, it can warp and expand the rubber plunger in the fit and make it stick - a real pain when you’re in the middle of hitting up.

Other water such as bottled water and tap water vary from brand to brand and place to place so it's difficult to give general advice regarding this water. Some are unsafe to use due to the presence of micro-organisms while others are okay.



If you don’t inject often or you rotate or vary the site of injection you may not need to use a tourniquet to get at a good vein. Whether to use a tourniquet or not is really a matter of preference. Some users, especially those with good veins, may not need to use them. If you do use them it’s important to use them properly.

Don’t forget that it’s easy to spread blood around using tourniquets and that you should always use only your own. Using something soft and easy to release is handy as well, as releasing them before the shot goes in - but after the needle does - is very important.

More (taken from Users News # 42)


Getting a vein

If you don’t have a tourniquet there are various techniques that can be used to help veins close to the surface of the arm come up.

  • Clenching and re-clenching the fist
  • “Wind-milling” your arm
  • Bathing the arm in warm water or having a hot shower
  • Push-ups


Barbed or blunt needles

If the needle on a syringe knocks against something or is used more than once, it can get barbed and hooked. This rips and tears at the sensitive veins and seriously harms them. On top of this there’s a risk of ruining the hit because if the needle’s badly barbed, the drugs may get blocked. You'll then have to transferring the gear into a new fit during which time blood might coagulate and make injecting that much more difficult.\


Clotted fits

It happens. You dig around for ages until your pick is blunt and when you finally hit a vein, jack back and go for it and… it stings and the shot’s not going in…!! You try again and again and you’re trying not to stress at all, but you know the fit’s going to be full of clotted blood in a minute and the closer this gets the more wild the digging becomes until there’s blood all over the place and you’re breathing like you’ve run a marathon and finally it’s clogged good and proper and won’t squeeze through the needle!

It’s a real pain but the thing to do here is to keep calm…easier said than done for sure! After quickly cleaning up any blood running down your arm or wherever - get the mix back in a spoon, add some water and re-filter it into a new fit.


Re-using your own fits

Try not to do it. If you do find that you're without cleans and don’t have the option of obtaining any then at least clean them. Flush through with fresh water and bleach them.

Make certain that the fits you re-use are definitely yours! Keep them into a container only your use. Remember that dirty tastes are far more likely when you use dirty fits.


Bleaching and flushing

Web: A Guide to Cleaning Used Syringes


Cleaning fits

If you find that you have to reuse fits, disinfecting or cleaning them canl reduce the chances of Hepatitis C and HIV transmission, septicaemia and other infections.

After use: Wash your hands then rinse the fit with cold tap water. Repeat this until all signs of blood are gone. Squirt water down sink or safe fluid disposal area (eg. empty plastic drink bottle). Do this as soon as a fit is used as dried or clotted blood is harder to wash out and can cause blockages. Always use cold water as hot water will clot blood in the fit and block it.

Before use: Wash hands and prepare three containers: one filled with clean cold tap water for rinsing the fit; one filled with full strength bleach for soaking/bleaching the fit; and one filled with clean cold tap water for flushing bleach from the fit.

Rinsing: Draw clean cold tap water from the first container into the fit. Squirt the water out into your sink or safe fluid disposal area. Repeat until you cannot see any traces of blood.

Bleaching: Use full strength bleach (at least 5.25% sodium hypochlorite), having checked the use-by date. Take the fit apart and cover it completely with bleach, soaking it for at least two minutes. If you can't soak it, draw bleach into the fit and shake for at least 30 seconds. (Count "one thousand, two thousand" ... up to "thirty thousand".) Squirt the bleach out into your sink or safe fluid disposal area. Repeat this process at least once again.

Flushing: Draw up fresh water from the third container into the fit. Don't use water from the first container as this has been contaminated. Squirt the water into your sink or safe fluid disposal area. Repeat this flushing process at least six times, until all the bleach has been removed.


Using in groups

Blood borne viruses (BBV’s) like hepatitis and HIV can be spread by traces of blood that cannot be seen by the naked eye and gets onto and into all sorts of places you might not expect. Try and be aware of this at all times, especially when using with other people.


More info

Contact: ACON's Needle & Syringe Program

Tel: (02) 9206 2052
Free Call: 1800 063 060
Hearing Impaired: (02) 9283 2088