A recently published study has found that the emergence of the practice of injecting Novel Psychoactive Substances has been associated with the rapid rise of hepatitis C virus prevalence among people who inject drugs.
People who inject drugs are at increased risk of blood borne viruses, in particular hepatitis C virus (HCV). Novel Psychoactive Substance (NPS) use has increased in recent years and generated significant concern within public health. However, little has been known about the extent of NPS injecting at a national level and its association with HCV.
The Scottish study – carried out by Health Protection Scotland, Glasgow Caledonian University, University of the West of Scotland and the University of Dundee – provides one of the first epidemiological analyses of the association between NPS injecting and HCV among a population level sample of people who inject drugs.
The study analysed the experiences of 13,000 people who were injecting drugs and attending services providing injecting equipment across Scotland between 2008 and 2016.
The study concluded that people who inject NPS in Scotland are at increased risk of HCV, despite high coverage of harm reduction interventions. This increased risk appears to have reversed previously stable trends in HCV prevalence in Lothian where NPS injecting took hold quickly and substantially.
Prevention efforts therefore should optimise harm reduction approaches, with a particular focus on homeless and ex-prisoner populations who appear particularly vulnerable to NPS injecting and related harms otherwise NPS injecting poses a threat to Scotland’s HCV elimination strategies.