By the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA)

Available data on the substances injected by users are based on self-reports collected in drug treatment registries or ad-hoc surveys. While these data are informative, they are often available only after some delay and are not analytically confirmed. Moreover, little is known about people who inject drugs that are not reached by drug services. The ESCAPE (European Syringe Collection and Analysis Project Enterprise) project seeks to complement existing data on substances injected by users, by providing timely and local information derived from the analysis of the residual content of used syringes.

A group of European researchers has developed an innovative method to obtain information on injected substances by chemically analysing the residual content of used syringes. For this study, syringes were collected from the bins of street automatic injection kit dispensers and at harm-reduction services in a network of six sentinel European cities: Amsterdam, Budapest, Glasgow, Helsinki, Lausanne and Paris. The contents of 1 521 used syringes were analysed in five laboratories using chromatographic and spectroscopic methods.

Future campaigns will aim at collecting syringes from other settings and will allow the monitoring of trends over time. The network will be expanded to include more cities, in order to provide a more representative picture of the European situation and to advance knowledge on local injecting practices.