Needle Exchange programs combat HIV spread among heroin users

Published by adviser, Author: Joseph Szalinski - Contributor, Date: October 15, 2015
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Heroin use is a major problem in this country. The drug’s increase in popularity in the last few years has made for more overdoses, more cases of addiction and more horror stories. Northeastern states like Maine and Vermont are seeing the worst of it. Due to increased potency, lower prices and general availability, many young people are becoming junkies. States have instituted programs where anti-overdose drugs like naloxone are provided to first responders simply because overdoses are extremely common.
Another measure states and communities are using to combat heroin use, and the ill effects of it, is needle exchanging. Critics of the program(s) say that providing clean needles only encourages more drug use. I disagree. Surely having access to clean paraphernalia may encourage some to continue to shoot up, but the addicts are already motivated to continue using due to their chemical dependency. No new users are being enticed by these programs.
The benefits greatly outweigh any negative consequences. Needle exchange programs exist, fundamentally, as a means to combat the transmission of HIV and other communicable maladies. Cutting down on the number of infected individuals is most definitely worth “tempting” already active addicts to continue to use, especially since those who can be/are affected by HIV are outside of drug taking groups.
Secondly, like I mentioned earlier, no new users are enticed to shoot up simply because clean needles are available. Just because a needle is clean, doesn’t mean other risks of injecting substances are gone as well. The increased risks of overdosing, developing abscesses, and collapsing veins are still looming factors that exist despite the fact that needles are clean. Drugs like LSD can even be injected, yet no one does so because it is impractical to do so, and other, simpler methods of ingestion exist.
Most people, who start using heroin, do so because they are already addicted to other opiates, mainly Oxycontin. Being used to taking pills, these users typically administer the drugs through smoking or insufflation. Only those interested in shooting heroin are going to be motivated more so because of these programs. It’s not like the communities provide the heroin to use, they are just making it safer for everyone involved.

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