More States and Cities Consider Needle-Exchange Programs to Reduce Spread of Infection


More states and cities are considering needle-exchange programs as a way to fight the spread of HIV and hepatitis C among intravenous drug users, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear signed a bill into law last week that will allow local health departments to set up needle exchanges after obtaining approval from local governments.

In Indiana, Governor Mike Pence declared a state of emergency in response to a growing number of HIV cases linked to intravenous use of the painkiller Opana. He authorized a short-term program in one county to allow people to exchange used needles for sterile ones, to reduce the risk of contaminated needles being shared.

There are about 200 needle-exchange programs in 33 states and the District of Columbia, according to the North American Syringe Exchange Network.

In recent years, Nevada has allowed needle-exchange programs. Two Ohio cities on the Kentucky border, Cincinnati and Portsmouth, have established programs. In Florida, legislators are considering a proposal that would allow a pilot needle-exchange program in Miami-Dade County.

Supporters of needle-exchange programs say they reduce disease transmission, and can connect intravenous drug users with treatment programs. Critics say the programs sanction drug use, and discourage people from seeking treatment.

Public health officials are especially concerned about the spread of hepatitis C among people who use intravenous drugs. Hepatitis C can survive outside the body for at least 16 hours, and potentially up to four days.

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    February 3, 2017 at 11:32 PM

    Usually in my experience if the good outweighs the bad. Usually go with that choice. I was a IV drug user for years and luckily I could get them from the pharmacy or I would probably be in much worse shape than I am now. Having this service isn’t going cause an outbreak of rampod I’ve drug use, things just don’t work that way. It is going to be another tool, and one of the best drug harm reduction tools yet. It will keep the spread of dirty needles being shared to a minimum which happens more often then most people think. These places would also be a good place to seek help for drug addiction as well. This is a big problem and with drugs. In the beginning you start doing them, and not too long after that they start doing you and it takes everything you have to stop. It is raw, it is life-changing and it can ruin your life forever Not just in your looks and features but also their overall moral, self respect, dignity. You lose this and your no longer a person. You have no identity. You have no life. You have nothing but a drug habit and that whisper in your ear telling you to get another one. Because if you don’t you would rather die than have to suffer from withdrawal. It is mentally and physically TORTURE. Needle exchange will only facilitate and naturally taking the right steps towards more sobriety and living life and less drug addiction and wondering who what when and where your gettin your shit from.

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    Dave Finch

    April 3, 2015 at 10:49 AM

    Critics of needle exchange programs are simply uninformed. We should be talking about going even further with supervised injection programs which have been proven to be seriously beneficial to public health over its 12 year experience by the Insite service in Vancouver, BC. Insite was found by a Canadian court to be providing health benefits without adverse consequences in terms of sanctioning drug use or discouraging the seeking of rehab. Not only is the spread of disease being curtailed there, but drug users are being educated. Overdose cases and overdose deaths have been significantly reduced. We who are seeking reform of drug policies need to do all we can to eradicate the prevailing ignorance.

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    Ellen Sousares

    April 2, 2015 at 2:36 AM

    Isn’t the best education on drugs informative and fact based in nature? Harm reductionists do not arbitrarily claim that syringe access programs (SAPs) reduce disease. Instead, decades of research have proven them to be highly effective, not only at reducing disease transmission, but in connecting with drug users in a non coercive, accepting manner that honors the inherent dignity of the individual and encourages positive change. Drug users who utilize SAPs are more likely to enter treatment, and less likely to be hospitalized for wound infections, sepsis and endocarditis. In my opinion, it is stigmatizing and irresponsible to address the issue of an evidence-based public health practice as “controversial” while neglecting to examine any of the evidence.

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    Skip Sviokla MD ABAM

    March 31, 2015 at 12:58 PM

    One thing is for sure: if providers would be more careful when prescribing oral opioids, many fewer patients would end up using needles later in their lives.
    Come on docs, pay attention.
    Skip Sviokla MD ABAM
    author “From Harvard to Hell…and Back”

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    Maia Szalavitz

    March 31, 2015 at 12:02 PM

    This paragraph is the problem with the needle exchange debate:

    Supporters of needle-exchange programs say they reduce disease transmission, and can connect intravenous drug users with treatment programs. Critics say the programs sanction drug use, and discourage people from seeking treatment.

    The reality is that the supporters have all the scientific data in their favor, and the critics have *none*. Reporting the story like this is like saying “Supporters say the world is round; opponents say that it is flat,” without mentioning, that, um THE WORLD IS ROUND!

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