Can Needle Exchanges be an Effective Form of Intervention?

needle sharingBy now most people know that there have to be many different types of treatment programs as well as methods of intervention and prevention. However, not everyone agrees that they’re all positive. One such controversial type of program is called a needle exchange. This is where IV drug users can go to get rid of their old, contaminated needles and be provided with clean needles at no charge.

This practice has been considered one of the more controversial in the set of tactics referred to as harm reduction. In some places around the world, these needle exchanges go even further and provide safe injection houses, where nurses are on hand with clean needles and people are allowed to bring in their own drugs and shoot up. They’re often referred to as shooting galleries, and so far there aren’t any of these in the U.S.

While some argue that even regular needle exchanges shouldn’t exist, proponents claim that they are effective forms of intervention for IV drug users in two ways; helping to prevent the spread of infectious diseases and also providing an opportunity to reach out to drug users to offer treatment help.

The need to prevent the spread of disease from sharing dirty needles was recently highlighted in Indiana, where there has been a sharp rise in the number of people contracting HIV. The cause was identified as being from IV drug prescription drug use.

Other than HIV, another commonly transmitted disease from using a dirty needle is Hepatitis C. Overall, there has been a significant increase in the prevalence of Hepatitis C in many parts of the country. Rural More rural populations like Southern Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia seem to have been hit the hardest, according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

With the skyrocketing overdose deaths from IV drug use and the continued social and financial cost of treating the increase in HIV and Hepatitis C cases, some people have begun to change their minds about the use for needle exchanges. There are reportedly 34 states in the U.S. that have at least one operation, and it looks like there are more on the way.

So what are your thoughts about needle exchange programs? Are they encouraging drug use and other illegal activity, or are they helping to prevent disease and act as a form of intervention to divert users into treatment?

Mike Loverde

With firsthand experience with addiction, Mike Loverde is now a Certified Intervention Professional (CIP), as accredited by the Association of Intervention Specialists and the Pennsylvania Certification Board. He founded Family First Intervention in 2008 and has since helped hundreds of families find intervention and addiction rehabilitation solutions.

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