NJ Legislature Votes to Permit Sale of Syringes W/O Prescription

Designed to address the transfer of blood-borne diseases via “dirty needles,” the NJ legislature has passed a bill permitting the sale of up to 10 syringes w/o a prescription.  Interestingly, this will not become law until and unless the governor signs it into law, an outcome that is “up in the air.’  Having opposed “needle exchanges” while a US Attorney, Gov Christie is on record indicating he is open to revisiting that opinion. For more on the story, visit http://bit.ly/sYsLHZ

NOTE: making the sale of “up to 10 syringes w/o a prescription” legal presents an interesting spin on the harm reduction strategy of ‘needle exchange.”
  1. 1.     By “purchasing” syringes rather than “exchanging them,” some of the potential stigma of “self-identifying” as a “drug addict” is removed in the effort to put clean needles in the hands of intravenous drug users (those in a pre-contemplative stage of readiness to change)
  2. “   Purchasing” needles rather than “exchanging” them is consistent with the old adage that, “Something for something is worth more than something for nothing” 
  3. 3.    “Purchasing” needles rather than “exchanging” them may permit those who have historically be opponents of needle exchange programs on the groups that they promote drug use to support the intended purpose of such programs—reduce the spread of blood-borne disease—w/o having to “give users paraphernalia

Of course as with all things, there is a down side.  Potential issues related with this Jersey bill include:

  1. 1.     Unless regulating the cost of needles, there is nothing to stop pharmacies from charging whatever they like for “loose needles.”  Although most pharmacies will not want to gouge their customers with “legitimate” reasons to purchase syringes, some may want to gouge “drug users” or discourage “them” from coming in their stores by charging an outrageous price for “loose” needles
  2. 2.     What becomes of the “dirty” needles?  In the exchange programs, they were disposed of properly, but in a “purchase” type exchange, the “dirty” needles remain “on the street”

Nothing is ever simple and without its controversy, but a tip of the hat to the jersey legislature for considering a new approach to a perennial problem.  Hopefully Governor Christie will weigh in on this issues based of fact and what is in the best interest of the citizens of NJ and not simply make a political decision.

If you are from Jersey or have connections with others who are, you may want to consider contacting the Governor and voicing your opinion.

What do you think?

Dr. Robert


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