Substance use can rob you of your family, your friends, and ultimately, your life. Drugs are being prescribed, abused, and misunderstood at alarmingly high rates, and the looming possibility of an overdose shrouds every fix.
While we can’t reasonably expect to cure the disease of addiction overnight, we can work together to take bold strides in reducing the risk of dying by OD.
March 21st is the National Day of Action syringe exchanges. This practice allows intravenous drug users the chance to replace their used needles with clean ones to avoid hazardous paraphernalia conditions. It’s a complex topic, so we want to break it down before telling you where to go for help.
In 2005, California lawmakers legalized the installment of needle exchange centers, subject to the authorization of local municipalities and implementation by the appropriate neighborhood organizations. While the topic remains the subject of controversy and debate, we urge our neighbors to consider the benefits of such a program before dismissing it completely.
Clean needles don’t necessarily encourage drug use. Instead, they offer a safer alternative to reusing equipment that can cause disease and decay. While needle exchanges aren’t the solution to our drug epidemic, they are a first step in meeting a substance user halfway and attempting to find solutions to the most impending issues that they are facing.
No exchange program would be complete without access to proper counseling. When someone seeks out a clean needle option, it shows that they are concerned about their health but still in the grip of addiction. This means they want help, and we must listen to their needs.
Harm reduction counseling acknowledges the user’s immediate cravings for their drug of choice while also offering them a plan to lower their dosage and guide them toward a future of sobriety. They may not be ready to quit cold turkey, but they are showing a willingness to get better, and that bravery should be applauded and encouraged.
In addition to preventing a possible overdose, harm reduction counseling can also educate a substance user to the potential dangers of communicable diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C. These viruses are spread through the use of dirty needles, and their transmission rates can be greatly reduced with the advent of a syringe exchange program.
While HIV is known to have a short life outside of the human body, it can actually survive in a hypodermic needle for up to 42 days. This means that a used syringe being shared between two or more people has the capacity to infect any one of its users for well over a month. If we can reduce this practice of reusing needles, we can invariably lower the spread of HIV.
Where You Can Get Immediate Help
In Santa Barbara and its outlying areas, there are a number of resources available to those in need of help with syringe exchanges and related health needs. The most centrally located option is the Santa Barbara Needle Exchange at 126 E. Haley St., Suite A-11, but there are a number of other locales in Tarzana, Ventura, Reseda, and Santa Maria.
While these destinations are welcoming and vital to the survival of those who are enduring the harsh realities of addiction, they may not always be staffed and open. The following calendar is a helpful guide when it comes to planning ahead for optimum health and wellness services:
- Tuesdays from 4 pm to 6 pm – exchange and testing offered in Lompoc, CA. (at the intersection of G Street and Oak)
- Every Wednesday from 4 pm to 6 pm – those same services can be found at the Pacific Pride Foundation’s Santa Maria offices, located at 123 S. College Dr.
- From 5:30 pm to 7 pm on Thursdays – PPF’s Santa Barbara HQ at 608 Anacapa St., Suite A, opens its doors (and hearts) for testing and exchanges
If you are in dire need of help and can’t wait until one of the aforementioned time slots, don’t hesitate to call 911 and get the attention you need.
Where You Can Get Continued Support
We celebrate our Santa Barbara first responders for everything they do to save lives and keep us healthy, so we want to join their efforts by providing our community with the best haven imaginable for your continuing wellness demands.
Sobriety is a daily source of joy. It begins with one step and then swells into a symphony that will carry you forward in life with confidence, love, and wonderful reservoirs of purpose. While we have been discussing that very initial need for clean needles to get substance users through today, we also have our eyes on tomorrow, next year, and beyond.
Syringe exchanges are designed to minimize harm to the body, but that’s just one small component of the equation. The mind must also be fully engaged in your quest to be your best if you want sobriety to truly take root. Our expert staff is eager to discuss your life goals, potential obstacles, and hopeful expectations as we journey toward a healthier future together.
So contact us today. You have already taken an immensely important step toward mitigating your immediate health hazards by reading up on needle exchanges for you or a loved one, but now it’s time to let us be daring for you. We want to build on your bravery and ensure that the harm reduction you have already ignited will blossom into a vibrant harvest of life possibilities.