WHAT IS SYRINGE EXCHANGE?
Syringe exchange programs are one of the most effective public health interventions for decreasing the transmission rates of HIV and other blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis C, as well as connecting users to treatment and other important needs such as housing or food assistance.
In states with legalized syringe exchange programs, people who use injection drugs turn in their used or “dirty” needles in exchange for unused, clean needles.
By expanding access to clean syringes and ensuring a safe way to dispose of bio-hazardous materials, syringe exchange programs create safer environments for the community at large. Additionally, syringe exchange programs are shown to lead to a 66% reduction in needle-stick injury to law enforcement. Click here to read more about why law enforcement in North Carolina supports syringe exchange programs.
While it is a common myth that syringe exchange programs encourage, enable or increase drug use, as well as crime, decades of research from organizations including the World Health Organization and the American Medical Association, show that syringe exchange programs do none of those. In fact, many studies demonstrate that syringe exchange programs decrease drug use by connecting otherwise marginalized people to treatment. It is estimated that syringe exchange program participants are five times more likely to enter drug treatment than non-participants.
Please click here for more information on syringe exchange programs as a public health intervention.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more information on the effectiveness of syringe exchange programs as a comprehensive public health approach. Click here to read more from the CDC.
WHAT ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA AND SYRINGE EXCHANGE?
In North Carolina, syringe exchange is NOW LEGAL!!!
NCHRC Supports Syringe Decriminalization, Syringe Exchange and Needle Stick Prevention Efforts for Law Enforcement and First Responders
- One out of three officers nationally will receive an accidental needle-stick during their careers. 28% will get multiple sticks.
- Needle-sticks expose officers and the public to deadly diseases such as HIV and hepatitis B & C.
- Once an officer is exposed to blood-borne disease, post-exposure treatment is costly and burdensome to departments.
- It costs the state of NC $680,000 for lifetime treatment of someone with HIV and $100,000- $500,000 to treat someone with hepatitis C.
- Most needle-sticks occur during searches when the suspect, fearing reprisals for possession of a syringe, lies to the officer and denies carrying paraphernalia.
- States that have adopted needle-stick prevention laws and/or syringe exchange saw a 66% reduction in needle-sticks to officers, largely because suspects were more likely to declare syringes during a search.
- Needle-stick prevention laws and syringe exchange have no effect on drug use or crime in a given area.
- Needle-stick prevention laws and syringe exchange have been shown to reduce the incidence of HIV and hepatitis in the community.
- According to a NC study on law enforcement, results show 82% of NC officers surveyed were identified HIV as a big concerned on the job. 60% had a positive impression of needle-stick prevention laws. 62% of law enforcement agreed that they would be good for the community.
- North Carolina should support needle-stick prevention laws and syringe exchange to encourage suspects carrying syringes to be honest to officers during searches and reduce needle-sticks to law enforcement.
In 2009, Congress voted to lift a ban on federal funding of SSAPs. However, SSAPs are prevented from operating in North Carolina due to possible prosecution given that the possession and distribution of syringes is a misdemeanor offense.
A new syringe access bill was introduced in the 2011 long session of the North Carolina Legislature.
There are 5 underground SSAPs operating in NC. These programs could be considerably more effective if the legal barriers preventing their work were officially sanctioned by the State.
It is unacceptable to continue to allow law enforcement to get needlesticks when there is an effective way to reduce them by 66%.
This is a public health issue where science strongly supports policy. HIV and Hepatitis C infections continue to rise at alarming rates in the state of NC. SSAPs would curb the incidence of HIV and Hepatitis and the soaring costs caused by new disease infections.
This cost saving public health program does not cost the people of NC a cent (but will save us millions of dollars). There is federal money available to fund SSAPs in NC and multiple national organizations have offered to fund SSAPs in NC if they were to become legal.
- HB850 (2013) Possession of Needles/ Tell Law Officer, effective December 1, 2013, states that if a person alerts an officer to the fact that he/she has a hypodermic needle or another sharp object on her person, premises, or vehicle prior to a search he/she cannot be charged or prosecuted with possession of drug paraphernalia for that object. The purpose of this law is to protect officers from punctures or wounds from sharp objects that could be potentially contaminated with HIV or hepatitis C and to encourage suspects to be honest with officers about paraphernalia they may have in their possession.
- HB 712 (2015) Possession of Needles/Tell Law Officer law, effective December 1, 2015, states that anyone who declares a syringe or other sharp object to law enforcement prior to a search cannot be charged for that object. On October 22nd, 2015, NC Governor McCrory signed the Pilot Project/Used Needle Disposal bill into law. This new law does two things. First, it states that anyone who declares a syringe or sharp object to a law enforcement officer prior to search cannot be charged for possession of the object or for any drug residue inside the object. Second, HB 712 authorizes 2-4 NC counties to establish pilot programs to collect and safely dispose of used syringes in their communities. NCHRC will start these pilot programs on December 1, 2015, in Cumberland, Guilford, and Haywood counties with possible programs in other counties in 2016.
- 2016 (HB972-Syringe Exchange Amendment): Syringe Exchange is legal in NC as of July 2016 (2016’s HB972). Syringe exchange programs collect used syringes from people who inject drugs and exchange them for sterile syringes and access to social services, including substance addiction treatment. Syringe exchange programs became legal in North Carolina on July 11, 2016, the day Governor McCrory signed House Bill 972 into law (G.S. 90-113.27). House Bill 972 also regulates the release of law enforcement body camera footage (NCHRC did not participate in the drafting of that section of the bill). According to G.S. 90-113.27, no employee, volunteer, or participant of the syringe exchange can be charged with possession of syringes or other injection supplies, or with residual amounts of controlled substances in them, obtained from or returned to a syringe exchange. Syringe exchange programs will supply a card, letter, or other documentation to each participant stating that they obtained their syringes from the exchange.
- 2017 (HB243-Stop Act): The Act underscores that no state funds may be used to support needle exchange programs but does not preclude a local government from supporting such a program in its community.
You can buy syringes at pharmacies in NC, but the pharmacist can decide not to sell you syringes.
Naloxone (also known as Narcan®) is a prescription medicine that reverses an opioid overdose, which can be caused by prescription analgesics (e.g., Percocet, OxyContin) heroin, and fentanyl. Naloxone will only reverse an opioid overdose, it does not prevent deaths caused by other drugs such as benzodiazepines (e.g.Xanax®, Klonopin® and Valium®), bath salts, cocaine, methamphetamine, or alcohol. However, naloxone may also be effective for polysubstance overdoses such as combined opioid and alcohol overdose or a combination of an opioid and stimulant. It cannot be used to get high, is not addictive, and only has an effect on opioids. Naloxone is safe and effective; emergency medical professionals have used it for decades. For more detailed information, visit www.drugs.com/pro/naloxone.html
Can Naloxone Harm Someone?
No. If you suspect an opioid overdose, it is safe to give naloxone. People who are dependent on opioids may wake up with withdrawal symptoms. Acute withdrawal is an extremely unpleasant experience, but the overdose victim is alive and can seek further medical care. Always call 911 as an overdose victim may need other care.
How Does Naloxone Help?
Naloxone is an antidote to opioid drugs. Opioids can slow or stop a person’s breathing, which causes death. An overdose death may happen hours after taking drugs. Naloxone restores the overdose victim’s breathing. If a bystander notices that a person’s breathing has slowed or stopped, or an overdose is suspected, naloxone can act as a bridge between the call to 911 and when help arrives to keep the person breathing.
What is Naloxone’s Shelf Life?
Naloxone typically has a shelf life of 18 -24 months.
Can Naloxone Wear Off Before the Drugs That Cause the Overdose?
Yes. Naloxone typically wears off in 30-90 minutes and the person can stop breathing again unless more naloxone is available. For this reason, it is safest to call 911 and have the person taken for medical care.
Is Naloxone Just A Safety Net for Drug Users?
Research studies have investigated this common concern and found that making naloxone available does NOT encourage people to use opioids more. The goal of distributing naloxone and educating people about how to prevent, recognize and intervene in overdoses is to prevent deaths. Other goals, such as decreasing drug use, can only be accomplished if the user is alive.
Is the Overdose Scene in “Pulp Fiction” Real?
No. Pulp Fiction is a movie! A person overdosing on heroin or pain medication may be very quiet or irregularly snoring or gasping. Gradually the breathing slows or stops as their skin turns dusky blue or gray. In real life, bystanders who witness an overdose SHOULD NOT INJECT ANYTHING INTO THE HEART. Instead, they should squirt naloxone into the nose, or inject naloxone into the upper arm, thigh, or buttocks.
Community Member Access:
While NCHRC would like to distribute free overdose rescue kits to everyone, the realities of a limited budget require our agency to prioritize people with a high risk for overdose. Free overdose rescue kits are only available to the following groups of people; active IV drug users, people on medication-assisted treatment, people who are formerly incarcerated with a history of opiate use, people engaged in sex work or people who identify as transgender. If we are low on supplies, we will prioritize active drug users.
If you fit these criteria and would like access to a kit, please contact Jesse Bennett email@example.com
Jesse’s email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Law Enforcement Access:
NCHRC has a limited amount of kits earmarked for law enforcement.
If you represent a law enforcement department and would like to see if you qualify for free naloxone kits, please contact Melissia Larson
Melissia’s email: email@example.com
Melissia’s mobile: 252-341-5102
NCHRC has more tools for law enforcement in our law enforcement section of our website.
FACT SHEET FOR DOWNLOAD: CLICK HERE
OVERDOSE PREVENTION LAW IN NC
NC has passed multiple overdose prevention laws that have included 911 Good Samaritan law and naloxone access components, including 2013’s SB20, 2015’s SB154 and 2017’s HB243.
The 911 Good Samaritan laws state that individuals who experience a drug overdose or persons who witness an overdose and seek help for the victim can no longer be prosecuted for possession of small amounts of drugs, paraphernalia, or underage drinking. The purpose of the law is to remove the fear of criminal repercussions for calling 911 to report an overdose, and to instead focus efforts on getting help to the victim. Also, a person who seeks medical assistance for someone experiencing a drug overdose cannot be considered in violation of a condition of parole, probation, or post-release, even if that person was arrested. The victim is also protected. The caller must provide his/her name to 911 or law enforcement to qualify for the immunity.
The naloxone access portion removes civil liabilities from doctors who prescribe and bystanders who administer naloxone, or Narcan, an opiate antidote which reverses drug overdose from opiates, thereby saving the life of the victim. The legislation also allows community based organizations to dispense naloxone under the guidance of a medical provider. As a result, officers may encounter people who use opiates and their loved ones carrying overdose reversal kits that may include naloxone vials and 3cc syringes. Pharmacists are also immune from civil or criminal liability for dispensing naloxone to people at risk of an opioid overdose.