The Pros and Cons of Needle Exchange Programs: Do They Really Work?

Written By: Lighthouse Editorial Team

Our editorial team includes content experts that contribute to Lighthouse Recovery Institute’s blog. Editors and medical experts review our blogs for accuracy and relevance. We consistently monitor the latest research from SAMHSA and NIDA to provide you with the most comprehensive addiction-related content.

Published on Aug 14, 2015 | Rehab Treatment Options

What are Needle Exchange Programs?

Needle exchange programs are places where IV drug users can obtain clean syringes for free. Needle exchanges also often offer other services.

Why Were They Created?

The purpose of needle exchange programs is to reduce the transmission of HIV and other blood-borne diseases. Recent statistics show that one fifth of all HIV and HCV infections in the United States are due to IV drug use. IV drug users often share needles with others because they can’t afford to buy new ones. Many needle exchange programs also offer education to help prevent the spread of illnesses like HIV and STD’s.

What Services Do They Offer?

  • HIV/AIDS education
  • Condom distribution
  • Access to drug rehabilitation centers
  • HIV and STD testing
  • Counseling
  • Safe disposal of used syringes
  • Other medical services

Needle Exchange Program Facts

  • 87% of needle exchange programs offer HIV testing and counseling, 65% offer hepatitis C counseling and testing, 55% offered sexually transmitted disease screening, and 31% offered tuberculosis screening; 89% provided referrals to substance abuse treatment” 
  • As long ago as 1997, The N.I.H. stated, “individuals in areas with needle exchange programs have an increased likelihood of entering drug treatment programs.”
  • In 2008, these programs reported exchanging just over twenty-nine million syringes.
  • Studies show programs have led to a 30% decrease in HIV infection, and an 80% decrease in risky sexual behavior.

These needle exchange program facts and statistics pretty accurately answer the question “do needle exchange programs really work?”

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What’s With all the Controversy?

Many feel these programs shouldn’t exist and that drug users should be punished to prevent drug use. People against programs such as these tend to argue this would provide more incentive for quitting.

Whether a program condones or prevents drug use, they’re helping the fight against HIV and STD’s. Addicts will find a way to get high and needle exchange programs offer harm reduction during active addiction. Those using these programs have less risk of contracting a blood-borne disease and, upon getting sober, will better be able to live as productive members of society.

Harm Reduction programs often try to get addicts to stop using. Information about treatment centers such as Lighthouse Recovery Institute, and other services to help stop using drugs are  also available. Many in the depths of drug use don’t know the path to recovery. These harm reduction programs offer information on what to do and where to seek help.

Do Needle Exchange Programs Really Work?

Those who don’t understand the disease of addiction say that addicts must deal with the consequences of their decision to use dirty needles. Contrary to public opinion, these programs actually help cut down on public health costs. Taxpayer costs increase with the increase of infections.

In some states, there are laws against possessing needles without a prescription and individuals carrying syringes may even be arrested for possessing drug paraphernalia. By 2006, forty-eight states have authorized exchange programs and allow the purchase of needles without a prescription. As of 2012, programs were interated in almost thirty-five states.

There hasn’t been any increases in drug use, or more frequent drug injection, in these states. Crime statistics have not shown any higher risks of crime since the integrations of such programs.

You can draw your own conclusion.

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Written By: Lighthouse Editorial Team

Our editorial team includes content experts that contribute to Lighthouse Recovery Institute’s blog. Editors and medical experts review our blogs for accuracy and relevance. We consistently monitor the latest research from SAMHSA and NIDA to provide you with the most comprehensive addiction-related content.
Cite This Article
Lighthouse Editorial Team. "The Pros and Cons of Needle Exchange Programs: Do They Really Work?." Lighthouse Recovery Institute., Published on Aug 14, 2015, https://lighthouserecoveryinstitute.com/needle-exchange-programs/.

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