Needle Exchange

NEEDLE EXCHANGE PROGRAMS

What is a needle exchange program? Sometimes called “Harm Reduction Programs,” needle exchange programs are government-funded and run programs where drug addicts are provided with clean needles for injecting drugs. The rational for such a program is that it reduces the risks that addicts take, for diseases, every time they use dirty needles.

Many communities do have a significant drug problem and those voicing support for a needle exchange program say that such a program will reduce the harm and the risk that drug addicts are exposed to. However, I, personally, doubt that supplying needles to addicts does enough to protect their health. The fact remains that illegal drug use is very risky and does much damage to a person's health, in many ways, whether or not they contract an infectious disease from a used needle. Addicts are still at great risk of overdosing, having their veins collapse, being poisoned or losing their lives through the violence associated with the drug trade.

Also, some experts in the field argue that needle exchange programs do not reduce infection rates. For example, in what I believe was a specific study, conducted in 1992, Dr. Lucy Sullivan of the Australian Centre for Independent Studies, found that a needle-exchange program did not impact the rate of decline of HIV infections. 1 Toni Meyer, from the New Jersey Family Policy Council, says; “Disease Epidemics : Both scientific and anecdotal evidence indicates that NEPs have failed to provide a prevention panacea for drug abusers against the dangers of HIV, hepatitis, and other health risks, which continue to increase at alarming rates.” If experts in the field are not in agreement on the benefits of such a program, communities should not be quick to implement it.

As well as the success of needle exchange programs being in question, such programs increase danger within the communities which host them. It is known that drug dealers like to operate close to needle exchange program areas. To set up such programs draws them to these neighborhoods. As well, the set-up of a needle exchange program in a neighborhood likely results in the streets of that neighborhood being littered with dangerous needles, which, ironically, had been acquired from the program. Discarded needles become a danger to the general public that uses the streets on a daily basis. Needle exchange programs bring more crime and harm into the communities where they exist.

As well as bringing danger and harm to the communities that host them, needle exchange programs encourage drug use, rather than discourage it. It is illegal for individuals to use narcotic drugs. Yet, the laws of our land are ignored when public funds are used to supply utensils for breaking these laws. How can we expect people to take seriously prohibition against narcotics if communities supply people with the means of breaking the law? Yes, the spread of infectious disease is a serious problem in our communities, however, the increased participation in illegal drug use is a larger problem. The battle against discouraging illegal drug use is undermined by needle exchange programs and we cannot afford to undermine such a critically important cause.

In conclusion, illegal drug use is risky and damaging to one's health whether or not one uses a clean or infected needle. Needle exchange programs have not been proven to do what they claim to do, that is, to diminish the spread of infectious diseases. Needle exchange programs bring more crime and danger to the communities that host them. Lastly, needle exchange programs encourage illegal drug use. For these reasons, I am opposed to adopting needle exchange programs. God bless you.

 

Shawn Stevens

 

ENDNOTES :

  1. Dr. Lucy Sullivan, as quoted in “Arguments : HIV transmission has increased despite needle exchanges” debatepedia.idebate.org/en/index.php/Debate.._Needle_exchanges.   Visited site Dec. 11,2010.

  2. Toni Meyer, “Making The Case For Opposing Needle Exchange.” New Jersey Family Policy Council, Nov. 16, 2011. www.nifpc.org.;     debatepedia.idebate.org/en/index.php/Debate.._Needle_exchanges.