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Needle Exchange and Drug Treatment

January 2007 - A recent study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health published in the journal Substance Use & Misuse and funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse examined the connection between needle exchange and drug treatment programs in Baltimore City. Principal researchers Carl A. Latkin, Melissa A. Davey and Wei Hua found people entering treatment programs were more likely to be HIV-positive females who used needle exchange facilities in the city.

The study stresses the need for treatment facilities to address problems such as HIV and mental illness that often co-exist with drug dependency and that the full range of services offered by needle exchange programs be better publicised.

Carl A. Latkin, PhD, lead author and a professor in the Bloomberg School of Public Health's Department of Health, Behavior and Society explained:

"Needle exchange programs and drug user treatment centers are two effective strategies to reduce HIV infections and drug abuse. Needle exchange programs reduce the number of contaminated syringes in a community and drug treatment reduces drug use, which may indirectly reduce HIV transmission."

Researchers reviewed 440 injecting drug users who were interviewed between 1997 and 2002 as part of the Self-Help in Eliminating Life-Threatening Diseases (SHIELD) study. At follow-up, 166 were enrolled in methadone maintenance, detoxification, drug-free residential or outpatient treatment programs. People entering treatment were more likely to be female, unemployed and users of the needle exchange program. They were also more likely to inject heroin, be HIV positive and have a history of mental illness. Researchers found that individuals who did not enter treatment were more likely to sniff or snort cocaine or heroin.

Carl Latkin said:

"Needle exchange programs are an important part in linking drug users with treatment. Creating trusting relationships with health care providers may encourage more injection drug users to enter drug treatment programs. Our study results clearly point to the need for strong linkages between needle exchange programs and treatment programs. There is also a need for treatment services that have the capacity to address co-occurring health problems found among drug users in Baltimore City."

Needle exchange programs are great for helping heroin addicts avoid contracting HIV and other diseases, but treatment at heroin rehab centers still remains the best way to help a heroin addict out.


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