Complex problem…simple solutions

Over the past few weeks, I have learned that intravenous drug use is a complex problem. Millions of addicted people use needles to inject illicit drugs into their veins resulting in a myriad of complex medical and social problems. Injection drug users (IDU) are at high risk for contracting and transmitting HIV, Hepatitis B/C and skin infections. Due to the stigma attached to injection drug use, this population is often marginalized and has few social services available to help.


So far, I have learned that there are two major schools of thought on “how to help” IDU. The first is that patients stop using drugs by seeking treatment. However, the availability of programs and the associated costs with them often make accessing drug treatment difficult. Since drug dependence is a chronic disease and relapse rates are high, the majority of IDU attend several treatment programs before successfully quitting. Due to the addictive qualities of most intravenous drugs a large portion of IDU never beat their addiction.

The second approach is called harm reduction. In this public health mitigation model the goal is to reduce the amount of harm that IDU do to themselves and others in a nonjudgmental manner. Harm reduction focuses on offering medical and social services which include helping IDU access treatment if that is what they desire. Popular services stemming from this model are needle exchanges (to prevent the spread of disease by reducing the need to share dirty needles), educational services and health services with a strong focus on HIV/Hepatitis testing.


Behind all the labels, theories and models surrounding intravenous drug users are people who should be looked at more like patients because they have a chronic debilitating illness. While others debate if IDU are worthy of helping or how to help, I want to put my efforts towards simple solutions. I see that the population Prevention Point Philadelphia serves as having basic needs and that satisfying those needs has a positive impact on their day-to-day survival. I am sharing a list of items (see below) that are always in high demand and short supply because the most common question I get after talking to people about my PULSE experience is, “How can I help?”  If you are interested in donating any items, feel free to contact me at Please note that this blog is not a solicitation and you should not feel obligated to help. The fact that you took the time to become more aware of IDU is also part of the solution and your taking the time to do so is appreciated.

Men’s Clothes



Mouth wash


       Men’s Socks




Wash cloths*

Men’s Undershirts



(sun burn relief)



Plastic Bags

(i.e. grocery store )

Feminine Products

Sun block



*Clean used towels, wash cloths, rags and sheets are welcome


  1. Dawn – You are providing such a great service and I really enjoy being able to follow through the blog! Keep up the good work and I look forward to hearing about the project when you return to the field!

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