If you use a needle more than once you can damage the vein or cause an infection. Using a needle more than once damages the sharp tip, making the needle bent and dull. Using a dull needle is not only painful, but can cause extreme damage to the vein. The picture above shows a needle that was used six times. To prevent any damage you should use a new needle each time an injection is needed. Using a new needle every time also prevents transmission of diseases like HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.
See images for pictures of damaged needles
So where can you get new needles?
New York State started the Expanded Syringe Access Program (ESAP) in 2001 so that people 18 years and older can legally purchase needles without a prescription. Before this program was started, the only way to get needles was with a prescription from your doctor.
Now, you can purchase needles from a participating pharmacy or get free needles from an authorized needle exchange program.
- A needle exchange program is a place where you can get new needles for free. There are many of these programs in NYC. (See the chart below for places that participate in needle exchange)
You can also get needles from hospitals, nursing homes, community health centers, doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants.
Many chain and non-chain pharmacies participate in ESAP but are not allowed to publicly display their participation in the program, so always ask your pharmacy if they are ESAP licensed.
For a list of ESAP licensed pharmacies by zipcode in NYC please visit:
Here are some places in Harlem that exchange needles:
The New York Harm Reduction Educators program has various needle exchange sites in Harlem and neighboring areas LocationDay(s) Hours
109th Street (between Lexington & 3rd Avenues, East Harlem)
Mondays & Wednesdays
Garrison Street (between Irvine & Hunts Point, Bronx)
Thursdays3:00-9:00pmJerome Avenue & Clinton Place-SW Corner (Bronx)Fridays3:00-7:00pm126th Street (between 2nd & 3rd Avenues, East Harlem)Saturdays9:00am-1:00pmCorner of Ward & Watson Avenues (Soundview, Bronx)Wednesdays1:30-4:30pmCorner of 110th Street & Park Avenue (East Harlem)Tuesdays10:00am-2:00pm148th Street and Bergen Avenue (Bronx)Thursdays10:00am-2:00pm Did You Know? is a series of health articles written by HHPC and reviewed by our Health Advisory Board.