Needle exchange programs or Syringe Exchange Programs are as they sound, a place for injection drug users to exchange used dirty needles for clean needles. Most needle exchanges take place out of some kind of van or car as many cities have not legalized needle exchanges as the law may find distribution illegal as it encourages drug use. However, many studies have supported the use of needle exchange programs. These studies have shown that needle exchanges do not encourage greater drug use. The concept behind needle exchanges is to provide drug users with a clean supply of needles, works, and medical ointment for infections. Because injection drug users are often dependent on their DOC, they will find a way to use regardless of safety. By providing safe works, drugs users will be far less likely to use dirty needles. Many drug users report that they do not wish to use dirty needles but often find themselves no other choice as they cannot buy needles from a pharmacy without a Rx.
How does a needle exchange work?
Many needle exchange programs work by offering clean needles and works in exchange for dirty or used ones. On the days that the needle exchange staff work, persons will line up and wait to be served. When they arrive they will present the proper information that each program requests of them in order to receive new works for the week. They will show or tell the staff how many needles they have. Some programs offer unlimited needles while others like San Diego have a limit (40) of how many new needles they can receive. Due to limited supply and support from the city many exchanges do place a cap on how many new ones one can get. Many places will offer an option to what kind of needles they can receive as different users have different needs. Once they receive their needles, they will move onto a supply table where they can ask for specific supplies such as cookers, sterile water, sharps container, tourniquets, bandages, and antiseptic wipes. Once they have their works many places offer connection and information to medical care or detox services to encourage sobriety. However, there is no major push for users to become "clean" as needle exchanges seek to provide a place for users to obtain clean works without judgement or rudeness. Many users already face stigma for their choices and will not seek help out of fear of stigma or judgement and needle exchange are to be a place free of that judgement.
Do people know my personal information
Although most needle exchanges are private not all can be accounted for. For the vast majority, you can provide any name you wish and you will be given an ID card of some kind so that you can be registered as a client. The one in San Diego does not ask for photo ID or proof of residence. Some basic questions are asked for data and statistics such as DOC, last time used, and number of overdoses. When registering it is important to know the times when they offer registration for new clients as not all exchanges take new clients at all hours. Although this has yet to be confirmed, carrying the right ID with you can help prevent getting a paraphernalia charge if you are pulled over shortly after going to the exchange. However, no paperwork will help if you are found with actual controlled substances.
It can be a bit tricky to find the needle exchange as many work from mobile vans or cars due to county limitations. They may not stand out or advertise themselves so it may help to ask around if you are having difficulty finding the one in your city.