With Rise in Heroin Use, We Need to Change Syringe Laws

An excellent article on why the syringe laws in the United States only hurt users and why they need to be changed. In my opinion that change needs to start with the lift of the federal ban on Needle Exchange funding. Heroin users face more challenges than you can imagine on a hourly basis and our present laws simply make like more challenging, both for active and recovering users a like. We can’t change the everything that’s wrong with the system overnight, but we can try to change small things one by one, starting with Needle Exchanges.

First published by huffingtonpost.com, by Tessie Castillo 09/24/2014

“Heroin use is rising all over the country, and with it, the number of people who consider themselves injection drug users. Here’s a question: What happens to all those syringes after they are used?

Well, lots of things. In states with syringe exchange programs, those needles will hopefully make it to a biohazard container at a collection site and later to an incinerator. Things get trickier in states where syringe exchange is illegal and syringes are criminalized under drug paraphernalia laws. Some drug users still do travel to medical facilities to dispose of their used syringes. Others secure them in puncture-proof containers, such as laundry detergent bottles or coffee cans, before throwing them out. But many simply toss dirty needles in the trash, out the car window, in parks, down alleys, or wherever the needle was used. And why not? Current laws provide no incentive to properly dispose of used syringes, and every incentive to discard them immediately after use. People who take that extra step to store used syringes in a safe container expose themselves to numerous risks if caught by law enforcement — probable cause for search, misdemeanor charges for possession of drug paraphernalia, even felony charges for any drug residue left in the barrel of the syringe.

Imagine if the law said that anyone who finds a lost wallet and turns it into the police station will immediately become the prime suspect in the robbery. Obviously, no one would turn in lost wallets. Yet drug users who turn in used syringes to a medical facility could be charged with multiple felonies if the police caught them en route. The law doesn’t distinguish between syringes kept secure in a hard wall container where they can’t harm anyone and syringes tossed in public parks where any kid near the playground could come in contact with them. These needles are not only an injury hazard, but a serious health hazard as they may be contaminated with blood borne disease such as HIV or hepatitis C. Law enforcement are also in danger of needle-stick wounds every time they conduct a search. It’s not that drug users don’t care about exposing others to risk, but if you weigh a potential felony against the “feel-good” of doing the right thing, it’s easy to see why many people prefer to get rid of a needle as soon as possible.” Click the link below to read the entire article…

With Rise in Heroin Use, We Need to Change Syringe Laws