A Case for needle exchange programs in Oklahoma.

A Case for needle exchange programs in Oklahoma.

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Nate Bossea started this petition to Oklahoma Health Department and

We the undersigned, are advocating for a clean needle exchange program in Oklahoma.

Needle exchange programs are harm reduction programs that provide sterile needles to people who inject drugs. The programs also dispose of unsterile needles and provide an array of other services.

The goal of the programs is to reduce the transmission of diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis C. In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 9 percent of HIV infections diagnosed each year occur among people who inject drugs. Injection drug use also helped cause a 150 percent increase in acute hepatitis C infections.

Injection drug use is associated with addiction to illicit drugs such as heroin, crystal meth and cocaine. Drug addiction causes people to make compulsive and risky decisions, such as sharing used needles.

Needle exchange programs are not designed to treat addiction, HIV, hepatitis C or other medical conditions. They’re designed to reduce harm by preventing the transmission of deadly diseases.

Many programs also provide brief counseling services and referrals to addiction treatment providers. Some also provide access to other disease prevention resources, such as condoms, and the overdose reversal medication naloxone.

A wealth of research supports the benefits of needle exchange programs, and few risks are associated with needle exchanges. But people often criticize the programs, and many cities have outlawed needle exchanges.

Pros of Needle Exchanges
Advocates of needle exchange programs say the benefits outweigh the risks. Needle exchanges have positively impacted communities across the world.

Supporters of needle exchange programs say the pros are:
1) Lower numbers of contaminated needles in a community
2) Reduced drug-related behavior
3) Reduced sexual-risk behavior
4) Increased access to drug treatment referral services
5) Increased access to testing and diagnostic services
6) Increased access to education about substance abuse
7)  Increased communication with hard-to-reach populations 
7) Reduced prevalence of new infections

Many benefits are backed by research. But harm reduction supporters have to educate community members because drug use is stigmatized. They have to dispel myths associated with drug use and correct misconceptions that have no factual basis.

What Research Says About Needle Exchange Programs:

Researchers have studied the effects of needle exchange programs for decades. A strong body of evidence supports the effectiveness of the programs, and a small amount of evidence supports conflicting or neutral results.

A 2001 review of studies published in the journal AIDScience identified seven studies that reported that needle exchange programs were associated with reduced prevalence of HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. Three studies concluded that the programs reduced needle sharing, and three studies showed they were associated with increased rates of entry into drug rehab programs.

In 2004, the World Health Organization produced an in-depth report on the effectiveness of needle exchange programs.

The report concluded that:
1) Increased availability of clean needles likely reduces HIV infection.
2)There is no evidence of negative consequences.
3)The programs are cost-effective.
4)The services can help increase recruitment into substance abuse treatment.

Research also suggests that needle exchange programs keep communities clean of discarded syringes. A 2012 study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence compared San Francisco, a city with a needle exchange, to Miami, a city without needle exchanges.

More than eight times as many syringes were found on the streets of Miami, and injection drug users in Miami reported improperly disposing of needles much more often than those who injected drugs in San Francisco.

Overall, the pros of needle exchanges likely outweigh the risks associated with the programs. Public health experts have recommended needle exchanges to combat disease outbreaks for decades. Unfortunately, myths and misconceptions have prevented the development of the programs in many communities.

Who pays for the needles?

My proposed Oklahoma Needle Exchange does not fund syringe exchange programs and it prohibits the use of state funds to purchase syringes and other injection supplies. Public funds can still be used for all other expenses, including personnel, health care costs, HIV and hepatitis C testing, naloxone, wound care, treatment, and social service referrals, etc (public funds already does this). Organizations will have to secure funding for syringes and injection supplies through sources such as private grants, individual donors, corporate giving, fundraisers, donations from medical organizations, etc. 

With your help we can make Oklahoma a safer, healthier place to raise our families, while providing a service that could be vital in saving the lives of people who are otherwise hard to reach. 

-Concerned citizens of Oklahoma 

Resources: https://www.drugrehab.com/2017/11/06/pros-and-cons-of-needle-exchange-programs/




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