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Arizona Needs Legalized Needle Exchanges

March 15, 2018 in Economics

By Jeffrey A. Singer

Jeffrey A. Singer

Needle exchange programs have a more than 30-year track record
of reducing the spread of deadly diseases associated with IV drug
use while helping addicts get needed treatment. Arizona needs them,
as does the rest of the country.

Recently the House of Representatives unanimously approved a
bill to legalize needle exchange programs in the state. It is now
in the Senate for debate.

Needle exchange programs
have a more than 30-year track record of reducing the spread of
deadly diseases associated with IV drug use while helping addicts
get needed treatment.

Even though there are seven functioning needle exchange programs
in Arizona, they technically are illegal because of laws that
expressly prohibit the sale or distribution of drug paraphernalia.
So they operate under the radar. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Thomas
Rivera, R-Peoria, would add Arizona to the 30 states that
explicitly permit needle exchange programs, and five states that
have no laws prohibiting them.

Needle exchange programs have existed since the 1980s.
Originally developed in the Netherlands in the 1970s, they operate
throughout the developed world. The oldest continuing program in
the U.S. started in Tacoma, Wash., in 1988. As of 2012, needle
exchange programs were operating in at least 35 states.

The idea behind them is to prevent the spread of HIV and
hepatitis that often results from the sharing of dirty needles.
Seven federally funded studies between 1991 and 1997 showed these
programs reduce the spread of HIV. A 2013 systematic review by the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed a drop in HIV and
hepatitis C infections associated with the exchange programs, which
was further supported by a 2014 meta-analysis.

Needle exchange programs are endorsed by both the CDC and the
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which
supports needle exchange programs for their “efficacy and
facilitating entry into treatment for intravenous drug users and
thereby reducing illicit drug use.

Law enforcement officers often get stuck with dirty needles, and
many believe needle exchange programs will reduce the risk of
exposure to disease.

Many needle exchange programs have personnel who counsel addicts
and get them help for their disease by referring them to therapy
programs. Some even offer testing for HIV and hepatitis, and
several also provide male and female condoms, as well as bleach and
alcohol (to clean paraphernalia).

Opponents of needle exchange programs fear they send the wrong
message. State Sen. Jay Lawrence, R-Fountain Hills, believes
replacing needles and syringes on a regular basis “merely
encourages” drug abusers to use illegal drugs.

But nearly 100 years since the total ban of heroin, and a
half-century since President Richard Nixon declared a “war on
drugs,” heroin …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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