The legality of selling or giving syringes to injection drug users.

Scott Burris, Jon S. Vernick, Alyssa Ditzler, Steffanie Strathdee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVES: Laws limiting access to sterile syringes impede the public health goal that injection drug users (IDUs) use a new, sterile syringe for every injection to reduce blood-borne disease transmission. We sought to determine the legality of selling or giving syringes to IDUs to prevent disease. DESIGN: We used standard legal research methods to identify and analyze laws and regulations influencing the distribution of syringes in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. RESULTS: A total of 51 jurisdictions had drug paraphernalia laws; 14 had syringe prescription laws or regulations; 11 required purchasers to show identification; 13 had legislation authorizing syringe exchange programs (SEPs). Since the beginning of the human immunodeficiency virus epidemic, 11 states have fully or partially deregulated syringe sales. Nonprescription retail syringe sales to IDUs for disease prevention purposes are clearly legal in 20 states, and have a reasonable claim to legality in 22 more. Sales to IDUs with a prescription are clearly illegal in only 3 jurisdictions. SEPs can operate legally in at least 21 states. CONCLUSION: Syringe access laws in most states may reasonably be interpreted to allow pharmacists to sell syringes to IDUs to prevent disease. In practice, however, unclear laws and pharmacist uncertainty as to their interpretation may constitute continuing barriers to syringe access for IDUs. A comprehensive public policy of ensuring syringe access for IDUs requires eliminating legal barriers to the sale, possession, and disposal of syringes, and educating pharmacists and law enforcement officials about the legality and public health importance of sterile syringe access.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S13-18
JournalJournal of the American Pharmaceutical Association (Washington,D.C. : 1996)
Issue number6 Suppl 2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmaceutical Science


Dive into the research topics of 'The legality of selling or giving syringes to injection drug users.'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this