Drug Needle Vending Machines Are Coming to Las Vegas

America's first clean needle machine could help curb disease among heroin addicts

by Troy Farah
Apr 18 2017, 8:10pm

Chelsi Cheatom, Trac-B Exchange program manager, demonstrating the machines. Image: Trac-B

Since the first modern vending machines began dishing out gum and postcards in the late 19th Century, coin-operated dispensers have supplied cupcakes, beetles, cigarettes, and even hypodermic needles.

Last week, Las Vegas became the first city in the United States to allow this kind of syringe dispensing machine, in an effort to reduce the spread of HIV and hepatitis C among heroin users and other injection drug users (IDUs). In the United States, 16 percent of IDUs have HIV, while a global study found 60-80 percent of drug injectors had hep C antibodies, indicating past or present infection—and that number is rising. The syringe vending machine program is a collaboration between Trac-B Exchange, a harm reduction center, the Southern Nevada Health District, and Nevada Access to Research, Education, Social Support & Health Care Assistance.

Syringe vending machines have existed in Berlin since 1988 and have been in France, Australia and Puerto Rico for years. Thanks to Congress lifting a ban on funding syringe exchanges in January 2016 Trac-B Exchange was finally able to bring this trend to the US. Already, other needle exchange programs across the nation are calling Trac-B to ask how they can get their own.

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