Nevada Heroin Users to Get Syringes From Vending Machines
By the end of May 2017, heroin users in Las Vegas will be able to get clean needles from vending machines. But the machines won't dispense syringes to just anyone: instead, clients of Las Vegas drug remediation program Trac-B Exchange will be prompted to enter a unique ID number, and the vending machine will provide a clean needle -- as well as alcohol wipes and safe sex supplies -- packed in a colorful, neatly wrapped box. Nevada is the first American state to institute a clean-syringe vending machine program, but Puerto Rico, some nations in Europe and Australia have all embraced the vending-machine model in order to combat rising rates of heroin use and of diseases like HIV that are spread by shared needles.
The Las Vegas program is one of the more creative responses put in place by communities all around the United States in recent years in response to a heroin crisis -- and the country's opioid-abuse epidemic -- that has seen heroin use among young people between the ages of 18 and 25 more than double over the past decade. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of heroin overdose deaths more than quadrupled in the U.S. between 2002 and 2013.
"This is a harm reduction approach," Chelsi Cheatom, program manager for Trac-B Exchange, told NBC Las Vegas affiliate KSNV. "People are already exchanging in these behaviors, and anytime someone's engaging in a behavior that could cause them some potential health side effects, we want to encourage them to reduce their risk of harm."
Image Credit: iStock