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

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

Written By: Brian Cattelle

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.

Needle Exchange Programs in the US

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

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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” (from Drug War Facts).
  • 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, needle exchange programs reported exchanging just over twenty-nine million syringes.
  • Studies show needle exchange 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?” Yes, yes they do.Related: How to Pay for Drug Rehab

    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 needle exchanges 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.

    Needle exchange programs often try to get addicts to stop using. Information about treatment centers and other services to help quit are available. Many in the depths of drug use don’t know the path to recovery. Needle exchange 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 needle exchange programs and allow the purchase of needles without a prescription. As of 2012, needle exchange programs can be found 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 from needle exchange programs.

    You draw your own conclusion.

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