Conference Seeks Ways to Reduce Heroin Deaths

Conference Seeks Ways to Reduce Heroin Deaths
Posted by FoM on January 15, 2000 at 20:16:37 PT
By Sam Howe Verhovek
Source: New York Times
Larry W. Campbell, chief coroner of British Columbia, where deaths from drug overdoses have risen tenfold in the last decade, to 407 last year, said he came to Seattle this week for one reason. "There are ways to prevent these people from dying," Dr. Campbell said, "and I'd like to learn more about them." 
Dr. Campbell was attending an unusual conference here, "Preventing Heroin Overdose: Pragmatic Approaches," which was billed by its sponsors as the first international gathering of experts to center on the question of how deaths among heroin users can be stopped. The 400 people who attended gathered in a city that has a heroin problem of its own: Seattle recorded a record number of heroin-related deaths, 144, in 1998 and has one of the highest per-capita rates of such deaths in the United States. The conference included scholars, researchers, doctors and other health care providers, drug-treatment providers and a handful of police officials who discussed strategies for dealing with heroin use. Some strategies, including needle-exchange programs and informal pledges by the authorities not to prosecute drug users who call 911 or who are taken to emergency rooms by friends after an overdose, are already being employed in some American cities. Other approaches are being gingerly experimented with, including distribution to addicts of naloxone, a prescription drug that can counteract the effects of an overdose. But other strategies that health experts came from Europe to discuss seem politically unimaginable here, including so-called "safe injection rooms." In such places, drug users are allowed to shoot heroin under the supervision of a trained staff, which can ensure that needles are sterile or arrange for immediate medical treatment in the event of an overdose. The conference here was co-sponsored by the University of Washington's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute and by the Lindesmith Center, a New York drug policy center that is financed by the billionaire George Soros and advocates alternatives that are more liberal than the nation's drug policy. The Seattle police and health departments were also listed as co-sponsors. The meeting had extensive, and at times impassioned presentations that generally favored an approach to drug abuse known in treatment circles as "harm reduction." That approach is less focused on telling drug abusers about the dangers of drugs than on getting them to use drugs more safely. Advocates of the approach say that many drug abusers have heard the "just say no" message countless times -- "They hear it every day of their lives," said Heather Meschery, director of a needle-exchange program in Santa Cruz, Calif. -- but are determined to use drugs anyway. The effort, these advocates say, should be on minimizing the harm they can do to themselves. Urban Weber, director of an agency that runs two of the four safe-injection rooms in Frankfurt, said that the approach had helped reduce overdose deaths there from 147 in 1992, shortly before the injection program began, to 26 in 1999. "This is simply about keeping people alive," Dr. Weber said. "We say it's safer to do it here than on the streets." And, like many of the advocates here, he rejected the notion that such places encourage drug use, especially among the uninitiated. "It is by no means an attractive place to see," Dr. Weber said. "It is not like going to a cafe and having a beer." Several officials from American cities at the conference said the point was not to adopt all such approaches now in use around the world, but to get experts together to hear what was being tried. "There is no one size fits all model to this problem," said Alonzo Plough, the director of public health for Seattle and surrounding King County, which operates one of the first and largest needle-exchange programs for drug users, and is formulating plans for a broader initiative to combat heroin-related deaths and H.I.V. "It's very good to see the range of things that have worked in other places," Dr. Plough said. "It's clear that not all those approaches will work in any one place." Ethan A. Nadelmann, director of the Lindesmith Center, whose critics say it undermines drug control efforts, was less restrained in endorsing the ideas presented here. "We could cut heroin overdoses in half if the information from this conference was widely disseminated," Mr. Nadelmann said. SEATTLEPublished: January 16, 2000Copyright 2000 The New York Times Company Related Articles & Web Site:The Lindesmith Center Hassles - 1/15/2000 13-14, 2000Preventing Heroin Overdose: Pragmatic Approaches 
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Comment #1 posted by kaptinemo on January 16, 2000 at 09:43:29 PT
You-are-an-industrial-unit! Part 2
Ever wonder what the supposedly 'moral' background for the WoSD stemmed from? Preachers had a big hand in this, because they wanted their flock's undivided attention to their rantings about 'pie in the sky'. Can't have that when your flock is buzzed on something and they start laughing in the pews. They might (gasp!)forget to put money in the collection plate. Or even challenge your dogma. Can't have that, now can we, brothers and sisters? Amen?But their biggest (shadow) supporters were the big industrialists. They hid behind Calvisist dogma (the rich were successful because God mandated that they be, and lesser people were the damned) and backed their preacher puppets as long as they felt it economically feasible. But there was also this: just as a 'flock' had to be 'led', the industrialist needed workers who didn't use drugs - ANY drugs. Including, of course, alcohol. So they backed prohibition.Well, the industrialist of today don't have to hide behind the skirts of religion , anymore, they just flat out tell you they will drug test to protect their profits.But todays job market is one that favors the highly skilled. There are fewer decent jobs to go around. So what do you do with the 'leftover' people, the marginalized who they have no use for?Let 'em die. And if you can make a profit off of them as they kill themselves with heroin or cocaine, so much the better.That's why it is so hard to get rational drug treatment/harm reduction programs going in this country. The people who really run things here want their industrial units to 'know their place'. The surplussage has to rendered immobilized - lest they realize what was done to them. And strike back.
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