Needle Exchanges Save Lives

This literally makes me sick. I couldn’t be happier to live in California, specifically Los Angeles, where the community is there to support IV drug users. Luckily I know many people who fighting against the almost unanimous stigma of IV drug users being worthless. In fact, there are laws set up in Los Angeles protecting people coming to and from syringe exchange programs. Also, cops are prohibited to stake out those areas in order to bust people coming to and from the Needle Exchange. In fact there are multiple instances of studies proving that Syringe Exchange Programs (SEP’s) not only help reduce crime, but support the IV drug user community and help reduce addition and drug use by proving recovery programs at low or no cost.
“Needle exchange programs have been proven to reduce the transmission of blood-borne diseases. A number of studies conducted in the U.S. have shown needle exchange programs do not increase drug use. I understand that research has shown these programs, when implemented in the context of a comprehensive program that offers other services such as referral to counseling, health care, drug treatment, HIV/AIDS prevention, counseling and testing, are effective at connecting addicted users to drug treatment.“

—Gil Kerlikowske, Director of the White
House Office of National Drug Control
Policy and former Seattle Police Chief, responding to a written question during his confirmation process

It’s times like this where I want to help, and make sure similar crimes against humanity cease to happen elsewhere, but I don’t know where to begin.
I’ve recently starting volunteering for Erowid, and I’m a regular down at my local needle exchange where I utilize all services they offer, from procuring supplies and trading in used needles for new ones, to attending individual therapy with an actual psychologist. They offer a wide variety of support groups, including an IV support group, safe shooting class and an overdose prevention class that includes 2 free doses of Narcone with training on how to administer it. They also provide, free of service to all IV drug users, Thai Chi, Zumba, yoga, acupuncture and cranial massages, as well as a whole department dedicated to safe sex, free condoms and education for sex workers and low income drug users.
I have filled out an application to start volunteering there myself. They have responded and hopefully I can go in and start helping out soon, after an orientation. They also always have active users on their volunteer staff and sometime regular staff. Which shows how much they bsyringeselieve in people and aren’t blinded by the perception of what a drug addict it. Especially an IV drug user. It’s one of the only places in LA that I feel completely comfortable and don’t feel like I have to hind my arms or in away cover up who I am.
In a perfect world everyone would have the opportunity to frequent an establishment like this. One that has a dedicated staff of people who care and don’t want to see a single person suffer another injury or contract another disease from IV drug use. The staff is mainly social workers, working for barely minimum wage, but they don’t begrudge the system at all. They choice to be there, to do this job because they love it. I hope that I can have as positive an influence on my community as these people have had one me and my community – the Downtown Skid Row area. Although, I know there are others on the west side as well.
I was recently reading a Harm Reduction Journal that did a study on hundreds of heroin addicts in China. Some within close proximity of SEP’s and some far from such programs, so it would not be reasonable to get there by walking or public transportation. Those addicts who were in a close radius to SEP’s were 80% more likely to have not reused or shared needles. I hope governments worldwide as well as well-intentioned social works will see the benefit in these dramatic results and take action. For a city as big as LA, we should have a dozen SEP’s spread out amongst our sprawling cityscape.
I look forward to doing my part this year and hopefully helping the world to rid itself of harmful and hurtful, unnecessary prejudices.
Peace, Love & Rock ‘n Roll!

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