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Clinic gives addicts 1000 needles a day

IPSWICH health services hand out 1000 syringes a day to drug addicts - solely for the purpose of injecting illicit intravenous drugs.

A drug expert says the figure is an indication of the seriousness of Ipswich's heroin and speed problem, but health officials and the police believe intravenous drug use is not on the rise.

West Moreton Hospital and Health Service dispenses the clean syringes from Ipswich Health Plaza to reduce the spread of HIV and Hepatitis B and C.

Chief executive Lesley Dwyer said the Queensland Needle and Syringe program dispensed 35,799 syringes a month, with 85% going to illicit drug users.

More syringes go to drug addicts in West Moreton then in the Darling Downs Hospital and Health Board region.

The DDHHS dispenses 36,867 syringes a month, with 68% given to drug users.

The remaining syringes are used by patients with medical conditions requiring regular injections.

"Making sterile injecting equipment available is a public health strategy that does not condone illicit drug use, but rather complements a range of strategies - both public health and treatment oriented - for the reduction of illicit drug use and associated harms," Ms Dwyer said.

She said no additional funds were allocated to the program this financial year.

Pharmacist John Ward operates the Ipswich Dosing Centre, a methadone clinic based only a few hundred metres from Ipswich Health Plaza.

He said the high number of needles was an indication that heroin and amphetamine abuse was a huge problem in Ipswich.

Mr Ward said clean needles curbed the spread of HIV and hepatitis but were used by addicts to inject heroin or speed.

"It's a good thing we do but it's an indication that we have a lot of people using drugs," he said.

Ipswich District Inspector Dave Preston said speed and heroin were the most common powder-based drugs used in Ipswich.

But he said marijuana remained Ipswich's most commonly used recreational drug.

"The use of drugs is usually related to crime and usually attached to the fact that they commit crimes to support their habit," he said.

Insp Preston said officers rarely discovered incorrectly disposed of syringes, but often found utensils and pipes for marijuana use.

The QT last week reported calls for the Ipswich Dosing Clinic to be moved away from the city centre.

Methadone treatment involves patients visiting a pharmacist to receive a dose of the drug, which is taken orally.

Shadow Health Minister and Bundamba MP Jo-Ann Miller said the clinic was saving lives and preventing crime.

"There is clearly a great need for the clinic's services and that's not surprising because there is a drug addiction problem in Ipswich," she said.

"There is no use trying to hide it. It exists and the city needs to deal with it."

Topics:  amphetamines drug addicts heroin marijuana needles syringes west moreton hospital and health service


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