Needle exchange programs, also known as NEPs, have recently been established as a current standard of nationwide health care. These community-based systems allow intravenous drug users to exchange their used syringes for clean, sterile ones in an effort to reduce the spreading of damaging and potentially lethal blood-borne illnesses such as Hepatitis C and HIV. Those who operate needle exchanges will frequently supply drug users with more than clean needles – many NEPs offer HIV and Hepatitis testing and counseling, comprehensive lists of nearby drug and alcohol treatment options, and information on numerous blood-borne diseases and preventative measures pertaining to each. Needle exchange programs are currently legal in 35 states nationwide, though there are only 228 operational programs currently in effect throughout the United States. The Department of Public Health spends roughly $1 million annually on needle exchanges – though as the rates of blood-borne disease continue to skyrocket, many government officials are currently pushing for a far greater allotment of time, energy, and national funding to the establishment of significantly more similarly intentioned programs countrywide.
Needle Exchange Programs Aimed at Reducing the Transmission of Blood-Borne Diseases
It is estimated that nearly a quarter of all intravenous drug users nationwide currently suffer from HIV or AIDS. Sadly, intravenous drug use is the primary cause of all HIV infections amongst infants and young children. Drug addicted women who have no access to treatment or clean syringes contract the disease as a direct result of use, and pass the infection along to their child during pregnancy or breastfeeding. In recent times, however, the amount of new HIV cases has been significantly surpassed by the amount of new cases of Hepatitis C across the country. As the rates of heroin abuse throughout the country continue to skyrocket at alarming rates, the rates of Hepatitis C infections continue to climb in conjunction – and the need for more accessible and widespread NEPs becomes increasingly apparent.
NEPs Still Face Some Controversy, Despite Proven Benefits
Despite the fact that NEPs have proven extremely effective in helping reduce the spreading of blood-borne diseases, there is still an excessive amount of controversy surrounding the issue. Some individuals believe that distributing clean needles to drug users will only work to exacerbate the issue of rampant heroin abuse. Of course, those who have any extensive or personal experience with the subject know that a lack of clean needles will hardly deter dug addicts from using. Those in the throes of severe chemical dependency will go to any lengths to obtain and use their drug or choice, regardless of potential consequences or health-related risks. For this reason, NEPs are extremely beneficial. While they do not work to reduce the amount of individuals currently using heroin (except in the sense that they offer potential treatment options to those who seek them), they have proven to make a huge positive impact on the transmission of deadly diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C by reducing the likelihood that addicts will share unsanitary syringes.
For more information on needle exchange programs in your area, please contact one of our trained representatives today. And if you or someone you love is battling a severe case of heroin dependency, or addiction to any other intravenously used drug, please feel free to call for more information on treatment and the steps necessary to receiving adequate help.