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Can free needles and Narcan help opioid users?

In recent years, the United States has wrestled with an opioid crisis that saw more than 46 people dying each day from overdoses involving prescription opioids alone. Concern quickly turned to users spreading serious blood-bourn illnesses, such as Hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS, with shared syringes.

Some organizations have responded to the epidemic by opening free syringe exchange programs with naloxone and other resources to make users safer. Nebraska does not have a state syringe exchange program. However, some research indicates it should.

What are opioids?

Opioids are narcotics that can produce morphine-like effects. Some opioids such as OxyContin, Vicodin, Fentanyl and Methadone can be prescribed by a doctor. Other opioids, such as heroin, are always illegal.

How are syringes and Naloxone involved with opioids?

Most addicts abuse opioids when they break the time mechanism for distributing the drug into the body by snorting or diluting and injecting the substance. Using syringes that are not sterile can easily transmit serious viruses through contact with blood.

Naloxone, known commonly under the brand name, Narcan, can treat narcotic overdoses in an emergency. The nasal spray revived Demi Lovato during her recent overdose.

Providing users with safety kits

Some states have established syringe exchange programs that provide users with clean syringes, Narcan and resources to find treatment. The state of Nebraska currently has no official syringe exchange program or explicit laws regarding the practice.

Some parties have opposed the programs, asserting that clean syringes and other resources for drug abusers only encourages the act. Supporters argue that the program is meant to decrease further negative effects of an act that would likely be done with or without free resources.

Research from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln advocates the expansion of syringe exchange programs and related educational programs after finding evidence that doing so lowers disease transmission significantly.

Penalty alternatives for users

Many syringe exchange programs do not collect names, addresses or other personal information. However, if law enforcement discovers that you are in possession of narcotics without a prescription or illegal narcotics, you could face serious criminal charges.

Exceptions to these charges may be made if you or a friend call authorities to report a potential drug overdose. This can procure immunity from minimal drug charges.

Other alternatives to criminal charges could include attending drug court, which offers addicts rehabilitation treatment as an alternative to criminal sentences. If you or a friend are facing drug charges, contact a criminal defense lawyer to learn more about your options.

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  • Defendant was charged with sexual assault of a minor. At the deposition of the alleged victim, our firm got the alleged victim to confess that she made the whole thing up. Charges were dropped against our client.
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