Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Needle Exchange Survey Shows Heroin Users Want Treatment, But Access Can Be A Challenge

Charles Krupa
AP Photo


Most people who use heroin as their main drug want to reduce their use, or completely stop, according to a new report released by the University of Washington’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute. It also shows methamphetamine use is on the rise throughout the state.


The results are based off a health survey conducted at 18 syringe exchanges across Washington. Caleb Banta-Green, who is the lead researcher for the report, tells Morning Edition producer Ariel Van Cleave information gathered through this survey, as well as previous questionnaires, helps shape the way people with drug-use disorders get treatment.


Interview highlights


Challenge of accessing consistent treatment: "Most treatment right now generally requires that you have to show up for a couple of appointments at set times, and at set places. If you're homeless and in the middle of active addiction, and maybe have mental health issues and don't have transportation, that's not going to happen."


Lessons learned from the health survey: "I think it's really important to understand that although we're doing a survey at a syringe exchange, and we might think that drugs are the most important thing in a person's life, they often aren't. Their concerns may be much more around losing their kids, their healthcare, being homeless. Those may be the bigger priorities. And I think what we really need to do is recognize that these are human beings. And one of the things they're doing is using substances, and they're using substances even though they know it's having negative consequences because they're getting more benefit than harm."


Combating fatigue when discussing the opioid epidemic: "The way I think about it is that the attention will go away on this issue eventually. So what we're really trying to do is lay a foundation over these next couple years where we have a spotlight on this issue that will last for a generation or two. This is not a problem you fix. It's a problem you manage."




Ariel first entered a public radio newsroom in 2004 while in school at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. It was love at first sight. After graduating from Bradley, she went on to earn a Master's degree in Public Affairs Reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield. Ariel has lived in Indiana, Ohio and Alaska reporting on everything from salmon spawning to policy issues concerning education. She's been a host, a manager and now rides shotgun with Kirsten Kendrick as the Morning Edition producer at KNKX.