Objective To assess trends in injecting and non-injecting drug use after implementation of large-scale syringe exchange in New York City. The belief that implementation of syringe exchange will lead to increased drug injecting has been a persistent argument against syringe exchange.
Methods Administrative data on route of administration for primary drug of abuse among patients entering the Beth Israel methadone maintenance program from 1995 to 2007. Approximately 2000 patients enter the program each year.
Results During and after the period of large-scale implementation of syringe exchange, the numbers of methadone program entrants reporting injecting drug use decreased while the numbers of entrants reporting intranasal drug use increased (P < 0.001).
Conclusion While assessing the possible effects of syringe exchange on trends in injecting drug use is inherently difficult, these may be the strongest data collected to date showing a lack of increase in drug injecting following implementation of syringe exchange.