The Evidence for Syringe Exchange Programs and Drug Decriminalization

Image result for syringe exchange programAn article in The New York Times last month highlights some important policies that could be more effective than our currently abysmal War on Drugs: syringe exchange programs. “Evidence abounds that they work,” writes economist Austin Frakt.

A study of the first American program–started in the Tacoma, Wash., area in 1988–found that use of the exchange was associated with a greater than 60 percent reduction in the risk of contracting hepatitis B or C. Another study of over 1,600 injection drug users in New York found that those who didn’t use a syringe exchange in the early 1990s were more than three times as likely to contract H.I.V.

It turns out these programs are also cheaper for taxpayers:

A cost-effectiveness analysis published in 2014 replicated the findings of others that came before it: A dollar invested in syringe exchange programs saves at least six dollars in avoided costs associated with H.I.V. alone. 

But don’t these programs promote drug use and crime? Well, “according to many studies, that isn’t so. Instead, they are associated with increased participation in treatment programs.” When taken with the evidence of the positive effects of Portugal’s drug decriminalization, it seems we have multiple reasons to give up the War on Drugs and the programs to erect in its stead.

1 thought on “The Evidence for Syringe Exchange Programs and Drug Decriminalization”

  1. The money spent on the ‘war’ could be channeled into health clinics which will provide more than just drug users with benefits, it will help the entire community in which it resides.

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