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Opinion Clean needles help recovery

An injection drug user deposits used needles into a container at the IDEA exchange in Miami in 2019.
An injection drug user deposits used needles into a container at the IDEA exchange in Miami in 2019. (Lynne Sladky/AP)
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Regarding the Nov. 10 editorial “U.S. overdose deaths are soaring”:

As someone who works at a nonprofit recovery community organization that provides a safe syringe program for people with severe substance use disorder, I’m inspired by the Biden administration’s new, evidenced-based plan to reduce and reverse the nation’s drug epidemic.

Specifically, the plan emphasizes a major investment in harm-reduction programs that are designed to reduce the risks of negative effects of drug use. The plan calls for an expansion of safe syringe programs (SSPs) that includes needle exchange, fentanyl strips to identify that life-threatening opioid use, peer support and access to treatment and recovery services.

The editorial noted that SSPs can be perceived as counterintuitive. Why would anyone provide syringes for people to inject drugs? The evidence and program evaluations of SSPs significantly outweigh those intuitions. People who regularly use an SSP are five times as likely to enter treatment for a substance-use disorder and nearly three times as likely to report reducing or stopping their injection drug use. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that SSPs reduce the incidence of HIV and do not increase drug use or crime.

SSPs are a pathway to recovery. When people ask my co-workers and me for SSP supplies, we know that we are helping them live another day. 

Don MathisHavre de Grace, Md.

The writer is a peer recovery specialist at Voices of Hope in Maryland.

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