A Check-In with Needle Exchange Programs in Florida
From heroin to ketamine, several drugs are intravenously injected by users to get a more immediate high.
Not only are abusing these drugs dangerous on their own but using needles to do so can come with even more dangers. To combat these issues, many places have started to implement the use of needle exchange programs.
What Are Needle Exchange Programs?Needle exchange programs (NEPs) are social service programs that collect used needles and hand out sterile ones for intravenous drug users for free or at a low cost. They can also be called syringe service programs or syringe exchange programs (SEPs). Besides replacing old needles, these programs may also offer other services as well, such as HIV testing, drug abuse education, and referral to treatment services.
With the rising opioid crisis in the United States, more and more states are starting to adopt and use these programs as a way of combating opioid abuse and addiction.
The Implementation of Florida Needle Exchange ProgramsFlorida, in particular, has been at the mercy of the opioid epidemic for several years. With the opioid overdose numbers in Florida estimated to be above the national average,1 the state is struggling to get opioid abuse under control. Opiate detox programs in Florida may not be enough, so the Sunshine State has started to look for other solutions to help mitigate this problem. South Florida was also found to have the nation’s highest rate of new HIV diagnoses.2 One such possible solution for both is the implementation of needle exchange programs in Florida. Just last year, the state voted to allow the use of these syringe exchange programs, but it has been a slow process to start.
Before becoming legal throughout Florida, the state had tested a five-year needle exchange program in Miami-Dade County to tackle one of the biggest problem areas in Florida. A mobile health clinic could be found in various places around the county, distributing sterile needles and providing other social services. After only three years, this clinic collected more than an estimated 250,000 used needles and handed out enough free Narcan to help prevent thousands of overdoses.3 These same trends seem to hold true for other places around the country. While some people fear that these programs encourage drug use, research suggests that needle exchange programs make drug users 5 times more likely to enter addiction treatment programs than those who don’t.4
Seeing such success in Miami and other areas of the United States, many argued for the expansion of needle exchange in Florida cities across the state. The result was a change in the law in July of 2019. While it has been more than six months since the change, most cities still have yet to implement these programs. Only recently has Hillsborough County, home of Tampa, approved needle exchange programs to help combat their rising HIV problems and opioid abuse issues. This makes it only the second county in Florida after Miami-Dade to do so.
As a drug rehab in Boca Raton, we have seen the devastating effects of opioids on our patients as well as their loved ones. If you or someone you know struggles with an addiction to opioids or another substance, get professional help.
To learn more about our rehab and programs at Banyan Treatment Centers Boca, reach out to us at 888-280-4763.