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By Steve Birr
Las Vegas will get the nation’s first vending machine for drug syringes to combat spiking heroin deaths in the state and reduce the transmission of HIV.
The vending machines filled with clean needles will be available to designated individuals by the end of May. Residents who want access to the vending machines will need to be a part of Trac-B Exchange, a drug remediation group operating in Las Vegas. Participants in the Trac-B Exchange will be able to type a special access code into the machines to receive a clean syringe, reports Health Central.
In addition to the clean needles, the vending machines will dispense alcoholic wipes and “safe-sex supplies,” all packaged in a box.
“This is a harm reduction approach,” Chelsi Cheatom, program manager for Trac-B Exchange, told KSNV. “People are already exchanging in these behaviors, and anytime someone’s engaging in a behavior that could cause them some potential health side effects, we want to encourage them to reduce their risk of harm.”
Prescription opioid deaths rose by 16.2 percent in Nevada between 2014 and 2015 and heroin deaths climbed 22.7 percent during the same period, claiming 82 lives.
Fatal overdoses from heroin quadrupled over the last five years nationally, according to data released by the National Center for Health Statistics Feb. 24. The massive increase in heroin and general opioid abuse in the U.S. since 2010 is driven by lower drug prices and ingredients with higher potency, like fentanyl, according to the data.
Authors of the study noted in 2010 only 8 percent of all fatal drug overdoses stemmed from heroin. In 2015, roughly 25 percent of fatal drug overdoses were caused by heroin.