Publications & Reports

Syringe Stockpiling by Persons Who Inject Drugs: An Evaluation of Current Measures for Needle and Syringe Program Coverage.

McCormack AR, Aitken CK, Burns LA, Cogger S, Dietze PM


Needle and syringe program (NSP) coverage is commonly used to assess NSP effectiveness. However, existing measures don’t capture whether persons who inject drugs (PWIDs) stockpile syringes, an important and novel aspect of NSP coverage. In this study, we determine the extent of stockpiling in a sample of Australian PWIDs and assess whether including stockpiling enhances NSP coverage measures. As part of the Illicit Drug Reporting System study, PWIDs reported syringes procured and given away, total injections in the last month, and syringes currently stockpiled in 2014. We calculated NSP coverage with and without stockpiling to determine proportional change in adequate NSP coverage. We conducted receiver operating characteristic curve analysis to determine whether inclusion of stockpiled syringes in the measure improved sensitivity in discriminating cases and noncases of risky behaviors. Three-quarters of the sample reported syringe stockpiling, and stockpiling was positively associated with nonindigenous background, stable accommodation, no prison history, longer injecting careers, and more frequent injecting. Compared with previous measures, our measure was significantly better at discriminating cases of risky behaviors. Our results could inform NSP policy to loosen restricted-exchange practice, allowing PWIDs greater flexibility in syringe procurement practices, promoting greater NSP coverage, and reducing PWIDs' engagement in risky behaviors.

The Illicit Drug Reporting System Project was supported by funding from the Australian Government under the Substance Misuse Prevention and Service Improvement Grants Fund. P.M.D. is the recipient of a National Health and Medical Research Council Senior Research Fellowship. The authors gratefully acknowledge the contribution to this work by the Victorian Operational Infrastructure Support Program.

Link to publisher’s web site


  • Journal: American Journal of Epidemiology
  • Published: 04/04/2016
  • Volume: 183
  • Issue: 9
  • Pagination: 852-860