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Heroin Epidemic Leads to Syringes in Vending Machines

20 April 2017, 09:07 | Todd Saunders

Heroin Epidemic Leads to Syringes in Vending Machines

Heroin Epidemic Leads to Syringes in Vending Machines

As of May, Las Vegas is set to implement vending machines which have as yet, never been seen before within the United States; they will dispense sterile needles in a bid to help limit the spread of certain diseases such as hepatitis B and HIV as well as help direct drug users to treatment options. The machines will also offer kits for cleaning wounds and for safe sex. "By providing them with clean syringes as well as other clean instruments they can use, they are reducing the risk of sharing any items and they are also reducing the risk of reusing".

The CDC reported on a study that looked at the effects of New York's exchange program on the prevalence of hepatitis C infection between 1990 and 2001, and found the needle exchange program reduced the disease's prevalence from 80 percent to 59 percent among intravenous drug users.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 6 percent of people who contracted HIV in 2015 were infected due to injectable drug use. Many heroin users share needles with other users.

Almost 10% of AIDS cases are contracted by sharing needles and almost half of all Hepatitis C cases are contracted from the unsanitary practice.

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Health officials say free machines will be installed in three locations in the city by the end of May. The clean needle packets will actually be free of charge.

However, unlike standard vending machines, these will not be left outdoors in public spaces, but located within 3 separate buildings and only be accessible during business hours. Pharmacies can sell needles and syringes but have discretion about who can purchase them. Registration does not involve any notification of law enforcement or a requirement to enter treatment. No personal information is needed to get a card, but each user is limited to two kits a week.

Trac-B Exchange program director Rick Reich said that to participate in the vending machine program, users would have to fill out a form for the sponsoring groups and obtain an eight-digit identification number to ensure confidentiality and track their use. Users are allowed to use the syringe vending machine twice a week. Program manager Chelsi Cheatom told KSNV-TV "This is a harm reduction approach". So people are already engaging in these behaviors.

This program is the first of its kind and will start off with 3 machines, worth $15,000 each, being made available next month. Heroin use is not only a problem in Las Vegas. These deaths are largely from heroin, but opioids also include prescription pain killers.

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