Syringe Access

Injection drug use is associated with a high risk of infection by blood-borne diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C, but sterile syringe access programs help lower these risks by limiting syringe sharing and providing safe disposal options. 
These programs also provide people who inject drugs with referrals to drug treatment, detoxification, social services, and primary health care.
Syringe exchange programs have also been shown to increase the safe disposal of used syringes, protecting police officers and the public from accidental exposure to blood-borne diseases.
Increasing sterile syringe access through syringe exchange programs and non-prescription pharmacy sales is essential to reducing syringe sharing among injection drug users and decreasing rates of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C transmission. 
Despite the benefits of these life-saving programs, legal and bureaucratic barriers still prevent injection drug users from accessing clean syringes. 

Our Priorities

The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) is working to ensure wider access to sterile syringes throughout the country. We support removing syringes from the criminal code by ending policies that criminalize syringe possession and limit sterile syringe distribution.
DPA has played an instrumental role in the struggle to eliminate the federal ban on syringe access funding. We have led successful efforts to launch syringe exchange programs and facilities in several states, most recently in New Jersey.
DPA backs the non-prescription, over-the-counter sale of syringes, which is now permitted in all but two U.S. states. We support state efforts to exempt syringes from paraphernalia laws and broaden the legal definition of medical necessity as it relates to syringe access. 
We also favor allowing doctors to prescribe syringes to their patients, a practice few states currently permit.

Indiana's Republican Governor, Mike Pence, Expresses Support for Syringe Service Programs to Combat Spread of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C

Announcement Comes as Kentucky’s Republican Governor Signs Bill Approving Syringe Service Programs

Federal Funding Ban on Syringe Services Continues to Hamper Local Efforts to Address Heroin Use and Reduce HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C

Indiana’s Republican Governor, Mike Pence, said on Wednesday he would consider implementing a syringe service program to help combat escalating HIV infection rates in Scott County, Indiana. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently determined that HIV infection rates have soared in Scott County on account of the sharing of syringes used for the injection of heroin and other drugs. Governor Pence expressed support for syringe service programs as part of a heroin emergency plan that he is expected to announce today.


Tommy McDonald (510-338-8827)
Bill Piper (202-669-6430)

Taking Control: Pathways to Drug Policies That Work

September 8, 2014
Global Commission on Drug Policy

This report reflects a new evolution in the thinking of the Global Commission, which includes Kofi Annan, Richard Branson, and the former presidents of Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Poland, Portugal and Switzerland. They not only reiterate their demands for decriminalization, alternatives to incarceration, and greater emphasis on public health approaches – but now also call for responsible legal regulation of currently-illegal drugs.

California Poised to Lead the Nation in Innovative Overdose Prevention Effort

Strong Bipartisan Support Delivers California’s ‘Pharmacy Naloxone’ Bill to Governors Desk

SACRAMENTO, CA — Yesterday, the California legislature passed Assemblymember Richard Bloom’s important drug overdose prevention bill (AB 1535), which would permit pharmacists to furnish the opiate overdose antidote naloxone, pursuant to procedures developed by the Board of Pharmacy and the Medical Board of California. The bill now heads to the Governor’s desk for his signature.


Meghan Ralston 323 -681-5224

Over 140 Community, National and International Organizations Call on Congress to Lift Syringe Funding Ban

Syringe Ban Hampering Local Community Efforts to Address Heroin Use and Reduce Diseases Such as HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C

Hundreds of Thousands of Lives and Billions of Dollars Have Been Lost As a Result of Decades-Old Ban

Earlier today, more than 140 local, national and international organizations released a letter calling on Congress to end the archaic federal funding ban on syringe service programs (SSPs). The ban was put in place in 1988, repealed in 2009, and reinstated by Congress in 2011.

Contact:  Tony Newman (646-335-5384) or Michael Collins (404-539-6437)

Stigma and People Who Use Drugs

March 3, 2014

There is an extensive body of literature documenting the stigma associated with alcohol and other drug problems. No physical or psychiatric condition is more associated with social disapproval and discrimination than substance dependence. For people who use drugs, or are recovering from problematic drug use, stigma can be a barrier to a wide range of opportunities and rights.

Healthcare Not Handcuffs: Putting the Affordable Care Act to Work for Criminal Justice and Drug Policy Reform

December 12, 2013
Drug Policy Alliance, American Civil Liberties Union

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) represents a remarkable opportunity for criminal justice and drug policy reform advocates to advance efforts to enact policy changes that promote safe and healthy communities, without excessively relying on criminal justice solutions that have become so prevalent under the war on drugs, and which fall so disproportionately on low-income communities and communities of color.

Budget Agreement Opens Door to Lifting Longtime Federal Ban on Funding for Syringe Access Programs

Syringe Access Proven to Significantly Cut HIV/AIDS

More Than 70 Maryland-Based Doctors and Scientists Send Letter to Senate Appropriate Chair Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) Urging Action

As Congress prepares to finalize the federal budget, more than 70 Maryland-based science and medical professionals released a letter today calling on Congress to lift the ban on federal funding for syringe access programs. The letter urges Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) to use her position as Senate Appropriations Chair to lift the ban, noting that “there are few occasions when members of the medical community can unite and advocate for a public health program that costs nothing, saves taxpayer dollars, and saves lives.

Contact: Tony Newman 646-335-5384 or Michael Collins 404-539-6437

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper to Sign Two Life-saving Public Health Bills Today at 2:15 p.m.

SB 13-208 Decriminalizes Possession of Syringes for Participants of Syringe Access Programs; SB 13-14 Expands Access to Life Saving Overdose Antidote Naloxone

Treatment Providers, Public Health Advocates, and Families Who Have Lost Loved Ones to Overdose Voice Support

DENVER — Today, Gov. John Hickenlooper will sign into law two life-saving public health bills. The signing will take place at 2:15 p.m. in the Governor’s Office at the State Capitol. Several family members who lost loved ones to an overdose, as well as public health organizations and advocates will attend the signing ceremony.

Contact: Art Way 720-288-6924 or Tony Newman  646-335-5384

Life-saving Public Health Bills Approved by Colorado Legislature; Await Gov. Hickenlooper’s Signature

SB 13-208 Ensures Participants of Syringe Access Programs are not Criminalized for Possessing Syringes; SB 13-14 Expands Access to Life Saving Drug Naloxone

Treatment Providers, Public Health Advocates and Families Who Have Lost Loved Ones to Overdose Voice Support

DENVER — This week, the Colorado House followed the Senate’s lead and approved SB-208, which allows participants in syringe access programs in Colorado to possess needles, as long as they are not pre-loaded. 

Contact: Art Way 720-288-6924 or Tommy McDonald 510-229-5215  

Congress must restore federal funding for needle exchange

In 2009, Congress passed legislation reversing the decades-old ban on the use of federal funding for syringe exchange but, for unclear reasons, in late 2011, it reversed this decision, again withholding federal funding from programs that provide drug users with sterile needles and syringes. This month, Congress approved the health spending budget for the rest of this fiscal year without lifting the ban. This lack of action worsens public health problems, makes our communities less safe, and increases future financial burdens on taxpayers.
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