ABSTRACT Aim To examine the scientific evidence regarding the association between characteristics of social networks of injection drug users (IDUs) and the sharing of drug injection equipment. Methods A search was performed on MEDLINE, EMBASE, BIOSIS, Current Contents, PsycINFO databases and other sources to identify published studies on social networks of IDUs. Papers were selected based on their examination of social network factors in relation to the sharing of syringes and drug preparation equipment (e.g. containers, filters, water). Additional relevant papers were found from the reference list of identified articles. Results Network correlates of drug equipment sharing are multi-factorial and include structural factors (network size, density, position, turnover), compositional factors (network member characteristics, role and quality of relationships with members) and behavioural factors (injecting norms, patterns of drug use, severity of drug addiction). Factors appear to be related differentially to equipment sharing. Conclusions Social network characteristics are associated with drug injection risk behaviours and should be considered alongside personal risk behaviours in prevention programmes. Recommendations for future research into the social networks of IDUs are proposed.