Australia) make available special containers that allow for proper disposal of used syringes in the needle exchange programs and pharmacies. Systematic evaluation of this issue should begin promptly and must take into account the concerns of community groups presented in Chapter 4 of this report.

CONCLUSIONS

The panel concludes that:

  • Any marked increase in the supply of sterile needles to injection drug users above current levels through pharmacy sales is likely to call for new measures to ensure the safe disposal of used needles. Whereas this problem has been solved in other countries (e.g., Australia provides special containers in public places that allow for proper disposal of used syringes, as well as individual returnable containers for used syringes), it is important to design good solutions to the disposal issue in the United States now.

  • Laws that make it a criminal offense to possess injection equipment (paraphernalia laws) were designed to decrease the prevalence of injection drug abuse, but they also inhibit users from carrying their own supply of needles and syringes and thus unwittingly contribute to the sharing of contaminated ones.

  • Laws requiring a prescription for the purchase of new needles and syringes (prescription laws) constrain the availability of sterile injection equipment and thus promote the sharing of contaminated equipment.

RECOMMENDATIONS

The panel recommends that:

  • The Assistant Secretary for Health should cause the disposal issue to be studied and appropriate means of needle disposal to be developed. A task force should be appointed and should include health safety specialists, infectious disease specialists, injection drug use researchers, and community representatives/civic leaders.

  • Legislative bodies should remove legal sanctions for the possession of injection paraphernalia.

  • Appropriate legislative bodies should repeal laws in the nine states that require a prescription in order to purchase injection equipment.



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