Are Syringe Exchange Programs Helpful or Harmful? New Evidence in the Wake of the Opioid Epidemic
NBER Working Paper No. 26111
In light of the recent opioid crisis, many public health entities have called for an expansion in syringe exchange programs (SEPs), which provide access to sterile syringes and facilitate safe needle disposal for injection drug users. This paper investigates the effects of recent SEP openings on HIV diagnoses and drug-related overdoses in the wake of the opioid crisis. I find that SEP openings decrease HIV diagnoses by up to 18.2 percent. However, I present new evidence that SEPs increase rates of opioid-related mortality and hospitalizations, suggesting that needle exchanges alone may be less effective than other interventions at stimulating recovery.
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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w26111