An increase in the number of dirty needles collected does not necessarily mean an increase in the number of drug users in the city, Ottawa’s medical officer of health said yesterday.
“We really can’t draw the conclusion one way or another if there is an increase or decrease in drug use from the information in this report,” Dr. Isra Levy told the city’s community and protective services committee.
Last year, the city retrieved about 507,700 discarded needles through drop boxes, one-for-one exchange and street collection.
Levy said they couldn’t accurately predict if needle discards are up or down.
Before 2008, they estimated the number of collected needles were based on weight. Last year, they did a manual count of the contents and weight of a sample of black boxes.
“We can’t speak to the underlying use or number of needles, but we can speak to how we took them off the streets,” he said.
The expanded needle hunter program has collected nearly twice as many discards than two years ago.
In 2006, it collected almost 1,400 needles. Last year, 3,350 were picked up.
In 2008, the city distributed 372,136 sterile syringes, much more than it brought in.
“We have always suspected that there are more needles being used than our needle syringe distribution program actually provides,” said Levy.
Public health is currently examining potential locations for 16 new needle drop boxes.