Syringe Vending Machines Come to Nevada
Las Vegas has long been the home of extremism, and when it comes to addressing the ongoing plague of opiate addiction and related health problems, the city is living up to its reputation. In order to help ensure that people who are struggling with addiction always have access to clean needles, three public health organizations have pooled their efforts and installed vending machines that contain brand new syringes in Las Vegas. Here’s what you need to know.
How It Works
The vending machines are free and available to anyone in southern Nevada, but prospective users must first register with one of the three providing organizations. Once registered, the individual will receive a swipe card and a code that will work the machines. Each card will be able to access one or two kits each week, and each kit will contain 10 clean needles, first aid supplies, a disposal container for the needles after they have been used, and a tourniquet.
There will also be a safe disposal box near each vending machine so users can deposit any used needles.
While some may be dismayed at the idea of a vending machine that dispenses clean needles, proponents of harm reduction point out all the benefits that are availed of users and the community as well:
- Clean needles help to cut down on rates of people who share needles and reduce the risk of contracting diseases like HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C.
- Needles that are dulled due to repeat use even by the same user can contribute to infections and abscesses at the injection site. These can cause fatal or near-fatal injury. Issues can be prevented by using new needles every time.
- Even an accidental stick from a needle can expose the unsuspecting person to drugs, disease, and infection. Having the safe disposal containers in the kits and disposal boxes next to the vending machines will increase the safety of the community.
- After registering and getting a swipe card, users of the vending machines no longer need to make personal contact with someone in order to get the lifesaving needles, and they do not have to make sure that they remember to appear at a certain time on certain dates in order to make the exchange. This may increase the use of these harm reduction devices and save lives, limit disease transmission, and decrease the rate of accidental sticks among first responders, sanitary workers, and kids in parks.
Though clean needles do not do anything to prevent overdose, one of the leading causes of death in Nevada and across the country, they are one of many harm reduction efforts that are helping to fight back against rampant drug use in the area.
We have learned as a country through trial and error that punishment and the criminalization of addiction do little to stem the flow of drugs into the country or to help people get treatment for addiction. As a result, the medical community, substance abuse treatment experts, and families are working to find ways of managing the situation that are effective – not only in helping the people who are living with active addiction and their families to find a way out but to also prevent new cases of addiction. Harm reduction measures like clean needles are an important part of this; so is the widespread use of naloxone, a drug that works to stop an opiate overdose when administered in time. By increasing access to the drug among first responders and families in crisis, we increase the likelihood that someone in the midst of overdose will receive the lifesaving medication in a timely manner and perhaps choose to get treatment as a result of the near-death experience.
What Do You Think?
Are vending machines that dispense clean needles a good idea for Las Vegas? Will they have a positive impact on the rate of addiction among families in Las Vegas? What do you think of harm reduction efforts in general? Will they help to solve the problem of addiction and overdose across the state, or do you think that different measures should be taken to help people who are struggling with addiction – both individuals in active addiction and their families?
If you or a family member is struggling with addiction, our Nevada drug treatment program, is available to help start the road to recovery.