Healthy living

Needle and syringe programs in WA

Needle and syringe programs (NSPs) provide sterile needles and syringes to people who inject drugs (PWID). This helps prevent people who inject drugs from getting  blood-borne viruses such as HIV, hepatitis C and hepatitis B.

In Western Australia NSP are operated by both government and non-government agencies.

There are four main types of NSP:

  • Needle and syringe exchange programs (NSEPs) supply free sterile needles and syringes on the return of used items. These are run through a combination of fixed-sites, outreach and mobile services.
  • Pharmacy-based NSPs are run on a commercial basis supplying needles and syringes to people who inject drugs.
  • Health service-based NSPs provide sterile injecting equipment at no cost to people who inject drugs through regional hospitals, public health units, community health centres, community drug services and other health services.
  • Needle and syringe vending machines (NSVM) and needle and syringe dispensing machines (NSDM) are self-service devices which dispense sterile injecting equipment on either a cost-recovery basis (NSVM) or for free (NSDM).

Most pharmacies and health services do not take back or exchange used needles and syringes. Contact your local pharmacy or health service to find out if they do accept used needles and syringes.

All NSP services must supply a safe disposal container with any needles and syringes they provide.

More than half of all needles and syringes are distributed in Western Australia through NSEPs. Pharmacies, health services and NSVM/NSDMs distribute the rest.

Find out where you can find NSP services in WA.

Distribution of needles and syringes to people who inject drugs is legal

The Medicines and Poisons Act 2014 (External Site) and the Medicines and Poisons Regulations 2016 (External Site) provides the framework for approving organisations to provide sterile injecting equipment to people who inject drugs.

Any organisation that operates an NSP must meet specific requirements as stated in the Medicines and Poisons Regulations 2016 and be approved by the Chief Executive Officer of the WA Department of Health.

There is no minimum age to access a needle and syringe program

The Medicines and Poisons Regulations 2016 do not specify any minimum age requirements for people to be able to get needles and syringes from an NSP.

However, it is recommended that NSP staff decide whether refusing access to NSP services will pose a potential health risk to juvenile clients (for example clients under the age of 18).

It is therefore recommended that when developing their policies, NSPs have clear guidelines about young people accessing sterile injecting equipment.

Why does the Department of Health provide needles and syringes to people who inject drugs and not to diabetics?

Despite education about the harms associated with drug use and information on drug treatment programs, many people will continue to inject drugs. One of the major risks associated with injecting is the transmission of blood-borne viruses such as HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

NSPs are one of the main strategies to prevent the spread of blood-borne viruses among injecting drug users and the wider community. Some NSPs do provide free needles and syringes for injecting drug users.

For more information on where to access needles and syringes for medical reasons please talk to your local GP or medical professional.

Diabetes WA (external site) (call on 1300 136 58) can provide information for those requiring/undergoing treatment for diabetes, and on disposal of diabetic needles

Where to get help

  • See your doctor
  • Visit a GP afterhours
  • Ring healthdirect Australia on 1800 022 222


  • Different types of needle and syringe programs are offered across WA.
  • Some supply free sterile needles and syringes when used items are returned while others may sell these items.
  • Not all programs accept or exchange used needles and syringes, but all must supply a safe disposal container with any needles and syringes they provide.


Public Health

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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