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Atlanta Legalizes Needle Exchange Program

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Georgia's Newest Effort in the Fight Against the Opioid Epidemic

At least 320 needle exchange programs exist across the U.S. These programs are legal in 28 states and Washington, D.C., according to HIV and AIDS research organization AmfAR.

Georgia added its name to list when Governor Brian Kemp passed a bill legalizing a needle exchange program in Atlanta. Nonprofit advocacy group Atlanta Harm Reduction Coalition operates the needle exchange in two locations in Atlanta. AHRC is one of many harm reduction programs across the country. These groups aim to minimize drug related harm for individuals engaged in high-risk activities, such as IV drug use. 

AHRC members hand out clean syringes and naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal drug, reducing the harms for people who use drugs. They also provide free HIV testing and assist clients accessing  treatment options for heroin addiction and other substance use disorders

Georgia has one of the highest rates of new HIV cases in the United States. Atlanta Harm Reduction operates in Fulton County, one of the 48 counties nationwide that account for more than half of all new HIV cases.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says the estimated lifetime cost of treating one HIV patient is more than $400,000. Preventing the spread of HIV through clean needle services is thought, by many, to be cost effective for the individual and community. 

Controversial as they are, needle exchange programs extend the lives of IV drug users. This gives them a chance at recovery they might not have had otherwise. People who inject drugs are five times as likely to enter substance abuse treatment plans if they use a needle exchange.

 According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, hospitalizations for opioid- and heroin-involved overdoses decreased in recent years.  However, emergency room visits for opioid- and heroin-involved overdoses increased by 9.6 % and 33.2 %, respectively.

In the same report, GDPH says that heroin-involved overdoses accounted for 980 ED visits, 322 hospitalizations, and 267 deaths.  Fentanyl-involved overdoses accounted for 344 deaths.

At least 320 needle exchanges currently exist across the U.S. and are legal in 28 states and Washington, D.C., according to HIV and AIDS research organization AmfAR.

Heroin Detox Near Atlanta

By starting a needle exchange, Atlanta has no doubt begun to save lives. Still, the most surefire way to avoid overdose and death is to stop drug or alcohol use altogether. Luckily there are many treatments for heroin addiction near Atlanta. 

Atlanta Detox Center in Riverdale is a premier detox and rehab center in the state. We offer residential treatment to manage heroin withdrawal symptoms during medically assisted detox. Detox for opioids, alcohol, prescription drugs and crystal meth are also available.  

Our recovery center is not only a nationally accredited heroin detox in Georgia. Atlanta Detox Center also treats co-occurring behavioral health disorders that, if left untreated, can increase the chance for relapse.