The United States is currently experiencing an opioid crisis involving the misuse of prescription and illicit opioids. In addition to significant growth in overdoses and deaths, the rise of injection drug use across the country has contributed to a sharp increase in hepatitis C infections and threatened recent progress made in HIV prevention. High rates of injection drug use in some areas have led to outbreaks or clusters of infectious disease.
In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified 220 counties in 26 states at highest risk for outbreaks or increases of viral hepatitis or HIV from non-sterile injection drug use. States with areas at high risk for increases or outbreaks of infectious diseases can implement a variety of evidence-based interventions to prevent infections, save money and preserve life. These policy options include community education, increasing access to substance use disorder treatment, vaccination for hepatitis A and B, and comprehensive syringe services programs (SSPs).
SSPs are effective community-based prevention programs that provide a range of services, including access to and disposal of sterile syringes and injection equipment, vaccination for hepatitis A and B, testing for infections, and linkage to infectious disease care and substance use treatment. As of August 2019, 27 states and the District of Columbia explicitly authorized SSPs. State laws that facilitate access to comprehensive SSPs can be an effective tool to mitigate the infectious disease consequences of the opioid epidemic.
For more information about the opioid crisis and its infectious disease consequences, visit https://www.cdc.gov/pwid/opioid-use.html.