There are a series of small acts that are linked together to create the conditions for safer injecting drug use.  At various points in the process, the person injecting drugs can be exposed to risk.  A practitioner working through the process with a young person can identify potential risk areas and enable the young person to change their behaviour in order to minimise the risk where possible.  Again, this information is relevant across all practice contexts. 

This practice aspect takes the practitioner through an example of working through the injecting process in some detail.  It provides a step-by-step guide to safer injecting practices. Although the process appears complicated at first, with the right support, most young people will be able to improve some aspect of their injecting, whatever their capacity and background.

Before we work through this process, it is worth identifying the injecting equipment and paraphernalia involved in injecting drug use:

  • Syringes and needles that come either as separate items or one piece units
  • Water  - in which to dissolve substances for injection and should be sterile
  • Filters – used to reduce the quantity of undissolved material that may be injected
  • Alcohol swabs – intended to sterilise the site prior to injection
  • Tourniquet – used to help raise veins prior to injection
  • Cookers and spoons– used as receptacles for mixing and heating (not commonly needed in Australia) the drugs prior to injection
  • Heat source (not commonly needed in Australia) helps the solution to dissolve but will not sterilise it
  • Blood-proof pads and dressing – used to apply pressure to site post injection
  • Bleach – important for cleaning cookers and spoons and surfaces used for injecting.  As a last resort used to clean injecting equipment when no sterile equipment is available.
  • Soap and water – hand washing and washing of injection site can reduce the risk of infections
  • Sharps containers – for safe disposal of injecting equipment


Heating substances prior to injecting is not usually practiced in Australia, nor is the application of ascorbic acid to dissolve the substance.

Cookers or metal spoons are rarely used, as local supplies of heroin and methamphetamines dissolve readily in water, and NSP services dispense disposable plastic spoons.

Just skip this step if these procedures aren’t relevant in your local using community.