Needle Exchange Program

views updated


Illicit intravenous drug users (IVDUs) commonly share injection needles, transmitting blood-borne infectionsnotably HIV and hepatitis B and Cin the process. Needle exchange programs provide clean, sterile needles to drug users, with no questions asked. As infected IVDUs often infect others, this is considered a better approach to a serious public health problem than moralizing and admonitions to desist from using illicit intravenous drugs, though these programs have forced opposition in many quarters.

Some have suggested that a better approach would be to legalize illicit drugs and provide them under license to those who are addicted, while simultaneously providing substance abuse programs aimed at rehabilitation. In the long run this might eliminate the problem and destroy the financial base of the hugely lucrative illicit drug trade, though, in the United Stated at least, political pressure to be "tough on crime" keeps such an approach from being considered.

John M. Last

(see also: Blood-Borne Diseases; Drug Abuse Resistance Education [DARE]; Politics of Public Health; Public Health and the Law; Substance Abuse )