More and more cities are expanding access to clean syringes, launching safe-injection facilities, and decriminalizing possession of controlled substances.
Public acceptance of these approaches was unthinkable just a few years ago.
By ensuring that people have access to clean injection equipment, these programs can significantly reduce the incidence of new HIV and hepatitis C diagnoses. C., for example, a syringe access program reduced new HIV cases by 70 percent over two years, saving the city an estimated $44.3 million in averted health care costs.
Syringe access sites have demonstrated success as a path to treatment and supportive services.
President Nixon waged the war on drugs in response to public demonstrations led by civil rights activists and Vietnam War opponents, pushing a narrative that linked black communities and protesters with drug use.
John Ehrlichman, a prominent official in the Nixon White House, owned up to this agenda years later.By 2017, more than 2.2 million Americans were in prison or jail, and nearly 60 percent were black or Latino.The disproportionate impact on communities of color is no coincidence.Instead, drug use was criminalized, and black Americans were locked up en masse.Four decades later, the number of Americans behind bars has grown by 350 percent.These interventions focus on preventing fatalities, disease, and other harms by promoting safer substance use behaviors.Three promising strategies—syringe access programs, safe-injection facilities, and Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion—are working in conjunction with local justice systems to reduce the harmful impact of substance misuse in a smart, fair, and effective manner.Syringe access programs are one example of harm reduction programming that has gained traction in recent years.Sometimes referred to as needle exchanges, syringe access services provide people with sterile injection equipment to reduce the incidence of syringe sharing—a risky practice linked to transmission of bloodborne infections.Harm reduction is based on the understanding that abstinence is not a realistic option for everyone.Instead of giving up on such individuals, harm reduction strategies meet people where they are.