Far too many families have tragic stories of a loved one lost to addiction. Injection-related overdoses and infections are particularly troubling because there are ways to mitigate some of the harm caused by reusing syringes. Fortunately, for those here in Florida, our state is joining the ranks of others in the US who support syringe exchange programs.
These programs collect syringes from intravenous drug users and provide sterile replacements. Free testing for HIV and other bloodborne diseases is often included, and these services provide a safe place for those struggling with addiction to connect with non-judgmental healthcare personnel. Syringe exchange programs also connect participants with drug rehabilitation programs.
Benefits of Syringe Exchange Programs
In 2016, the Infectious Disease Elimination Act (IDEA) legalized a syringe exchange pilot program in Miami. According to reports, the Miami community saw significant benefits from this pilot program. HIV outbreaks decreased, as testing caught individual cases sooner. Hospitalizations from infections and overdoses related to reused syringes also declined. And most encouragingly, hundreds of people have entered drug treatment programs after seeking out the syringe exchange program.
As Governor Ron DeSantis looks to address drug issues statewide through a number of measures—including signing the 2019 IDEA bill into law—Florida has a considerable amount of catching up to do to address the opioid epidemic and other substance abuse. But as the 2016 pilot program has suggested, syringe exchange programs may be a promising way to get more people into treatment.
The Pros and Cons of Needle Exchange Programs
While the IDEA bill will make syringe exchange programs legal statewide, individual counties will be responsible for authorizing these services on a local level. Some concerns may be raised when local legislation considers enacting these programs in your area. Some of these concerns include:
- Continued drug use. Needle exchange programs are not rehab facilities. They may be seen as encouraging users to continue on their current paths.
- Funding. Most programs are subsidized through taxes. While hospital costs in dealing with infections and overdoses may decrease, the community often shoulders some additional financial responsibility.
- Accessibility. Syringe exchange programs tend to be concentrated in heavily populated areas. This may essentially exclude rural users from participating.
- Changes in the neighborhood. The areas around syringe exchange programs may see changes in the neighborhood with increased presence of drug users and heavier amounts of product on their streets.
While these criticisms are not something to take lightly, there are many benefits to syringe exchange programs, as the 2016 pilot program revealed. The ample evidence we have available supports that thousands of IV drug users have made progress in battling addiction and injection-related harm thanks to these programs. In fact, many studies show that participants in syringe exchange programs are more likely to seek long-term treatment for addiction.
Talking to Your Loved One About Drug Abuse
Heroin, methamphetamine, fentanyl and other drugs that are commonly injected put people at risk for HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and heart valve infections. If you’re concerned a loved one might be addicted, it’s important to talk with him or her about it.
Be supportive and listen. Addiction is a complicated issue with many factors. No one sets out to become an addict. Once you’re caught in that trap, difficult feelings like shame, guilt, fear and despair can make it difficult to seek help. However, helping your loved one get the treatment they need is possible.
Individualized, Holistic Treatment for Addiction at Footprints Beachside Recovery
One size does not fit all when it comes to treating addiction. At Footprints Beachside Recovery, we work with our clients to find a treatment plan that fits their unique needs and situations. Through a variety of therapy models (group, individual, family, recreational and more), our programs address all the mental and physical issues brought about by addiction.
If you have questions, our addiction specialists are ready to talk with you right now.