Tag: needle exchanges

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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Harm Reduction: Helping or Hurting Addicts? – Part One

Written By: Fiona Stockard

What is Harm Reduction?

The first time a woman approached me on the street and asked if I wanted clean syringes, I thought I was dreaming. Turns out this wasn’t some addict fantasy or dream, rather I’d just been introduced to harm reduction.

what are needle exchanges?

Harm reduction is an often-controversial type of treatment. At its most basic, harm reduction aims to provide care, and in some cases rehabilitation, to active addicts.

To put it another way, harm reduction operates under the belief that reducing the self and societal damage of addiction is of the utmost importance. Guess what? It is!

Is harm reduction helping or hurting addicts, though? Does it provide much needed support or enable destructive behavior? Let’s explore some common types of harm reduction and see if we can figure out the pros and cons.

Learn the signs and symptoms of prescription painkiller addiction

Needle Exchanges

Needle exchanges are probably the most recognized form of harm reduction. This was my introduction and, I bet, countless other addicts introduction to harm reduction.

what are opioid replacement therapies?

Needle exchanges are places where an addict can go and trade in dirty syringes for clean ones. Advocates say this reduces the spread of blood-borne diseases. This is accomplished by providing access to unused syringes (reducing the chance of sharing needles) and by properly disposing of used syringes (reducing the chance an unlucky person might stick themselves with a discarded needle).

Some needle exchanges are buildings, others are nothing more than vans with a permit and clean needles. The one I went to offered soup, second-hand clothes, and educational classes.

It’s kind of funny actually – I went from college classes about addiction from a sociological perspective, to needle exchange classes about how to avoid contracting HIV. Black humor was always my favorite!

Now that we know the pros of needle exchanges, what’re the cons? Well, opponents of needle exchanges argue they perpetuate addiction. They argue that illegal drugs are, well, illegal and needle exchanges allow illegal behavior to continue. However, a 2001 study done by harm reduction advocates reported needle exchanges reduced the spread of HIV in New York City by as much as 70%. That sounds pretty impressive to me!

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Opioid Replacement Therapies (ORT)

Opioid Replacement Therapy is another well-known form of harm reduction. It’s often called methadone maintenance. This is when opioid addicts are given access to methadone or buprenorphine, in an effort to wean them off street drugs.

alternative forms of addiction treatment?

Before we go any further, there are a few important points to make! To be enrolled in an ORT, you must take drug tests. This ensures participants aren’t abusing heroin, or pain pills, while receiving medication. Also, you go to an ORT clinic to receive medication. Doctors don’t hand out drugs on the street!

Sometimes, ORT clinics offer health and educational services, though this isn’t always the case. Advocates of Opioid Replacement Therapy say it’s a powerful way to wean addicts off of heroin and other illegal opioids.

They cite studies which show between 40% and 60% effectiveness of ORT’s, although this number is often debated. After all, it’s hard to determine what qualifies as effectiveness. Is it a year of abstinence from illegal drugs? Is it steady employment? Is it stable housing? Is it all of these things and more?

Opponents of ORT say it offers addicts a way to beat the system. They say rather than facing the consequences of their actions, addicts are given free drugs. They say ORT’s are too lenient in how they enforce drug screens.

The truth’s probably somewhere between the two. Opioid Replacement Therapies certainly help a lot of suffering addicts. They also offer a way out of active addiction, as opponents say. Isn’t that the goal, though? Don’t we, as recovering addicts and caring normies, want active addicts to get the help they need?

What’s cotton fever?

Does harm reduction help or hurt addicts? Click here to read Harm Reduction: Helping or Hurting Addicts? – Part Two and find out!

We are here to support you during your time of need and help you make the best decision for yourself or your loved one. Click below to speak to a member of our staff directly.

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