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Should Needle Exchanges Be Publicly Funded?

As a long time drug user, and shortly thereafter, becoming a needle drug user, I have seen first hand what a damaged, re-used syringe can do to a persons arm and veins. Where I live, sharing needles with others is never done, and is looked down upon, even in the drug world. But, re-using the needles that you have already used, is extremely common, and when not properly sharpened, and maintained, can and will cause tearing in your veins, hematomas that are fairly big in size, and scarring, to name a few.

The needle exchanges in big cities, are most always privately funded, and a lot of them have a hard time keeping up with the massive amounts of needles and other drug cooking paraphernalia that is required to make that drug user safer while injecting whatever he is injecting. For a heroin user, the amount of times per day you are injecting is very high in most cases. Therefore some needle exchanges have limits on how many needles they can give out to a particular person in that day.

In the rural parts of Canada, like my hometown, there is no needle exchange to be found anywhere, This is a problem. Not only are there risk of a child picking up a dirty syringe and poking himself, and other drug users sharing needles because they cant afford any clean ones, but you have to pay out of pocket, every day for these small packs of 10, or pay a huge amount for a box of 100. When I was using, it was near impossible to afford to buy the needles yourself. When you have a hard drug addiction, that drains every penny out of your pocket like it was liquid in a river, but you end up having to resort to extreme measures to re-purpose your needles. Things like sharpening your needle bevel onto a match pack, or sharpening it on a stone. Although this may never bring your needle back to the perfect condition it was first in, but it does make it less painful and less damaging. Doing this, you also have the risk of getting metal files into your bloodstream, which could kill you quick. Which is why it is important to clean the syringe thoroughly before using again.

It is things like this that make the lives of a lot of users, extremely hard. From blowing veins, to getting files of metal in your veins, and bacteria infections, something needs to be done. The amount of users is not declining, in fact it is increasing. With this increase, you get more and more people with HIV, Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B, and other diseases that, most, cannot be cured. The government will be spending more money treating these patients in hospitals and medications, that if there were a needle exchange within 80 KM of most small areas, slowly building it across canada, that they would save millions in the long run.

I know what some of you may be thinking. “These dirty drug addicts, are filth and deserve to contract these if they're stupid enough to do it in the first place”. Well, addiction, like any other illness is not always that persons fault. Take this scenario for example:

A man is driving home from a long day at work, he turns his head for a second, and a transport truck hits him head on, causing extreme damage to his body. The man is rushed to the ER, operated on, and given great amounts of morphine, or another opiate. He has to take this every day while in the hospital, and he probably won't be discharged any time soon. He starts physio a few months later, and is beginning to walk again, all while on increasing doses of opiates. Now, he is home and still taking them, but 1 or 2 is not working anymore, so he ups his dose. 3 and 4 aren’t cutting it anymore so he ups again, and again, etc.

In most cases this is how it all begins. And a couple years down the road, he is injecting his medication in order to receive the pain relief he is needing, not only for his body any more, but now, mentally. He is so attached to the feeling he gets from them that he can't stop. When he tries, he gets severe withdrawal and cant function.

The government needs to step up and help provide a safer and cleaner way for those that use, to get themselves clean, sterile needles, and injecting supplies. This is harm reduction 101, and I honestly believe that providing this, and the funding for it, would go a long way to ensure the safety of the public, as well as the user.

Another idea, would be for a government funded online needle exchange, where people that live in extreme rural areas, can go online, and get supplies including a bio-hazard needle disposal box sent to them. There would have to be some type of small payment for shipping, but the needles themselves cost pennies, and would not take much out of a well planned budget.

The world needs an advocate for those who are helpless. Don't forget that addiction is a disease or illness, just like depression, schizophrenia or any other illness. Don't just dismiss users as incompetent junkies that have no future, as everyone (I believe) has a future, no matter how far they have gone down the wrong road.

Think on it.

Health | Healthcare


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