Free Needles for Addicts?

Free Needles for Addicts?
Posted by FoM on February 08, 2000 at 17:27:59 PT
No Way To Fight The Drug War
Source: PRNewswire
Do needle-exchange programs really save lives? Prevent disease? Or do they only create more casualties in the nation's war on drugs?To find out, Reader's Digest Senior Editor Dan Levine watched one of America's free-needle exchanges in action. And sadly, he saw how drug abusers consistently abuse these programs as well.
"This is No Way to Fight the Drug War," Levine's special report in the magazine's February 2000 issue, sums up three months spent in some of Baltimore's most drug-infested neighborhoods, getting the story first-hand from the addicts themselves.Supporters argue that the needle handouts at least keep heroin and cocaine addicts from re-using others' dirty syringes -- a practice that has spread HIV and hepatitis not just among users but to their sex partners and children. But the truth, Levine found, is that many addicts share their free syringes, or sell them to buy more drugs:-- "If you find somebody who doesn't share, I'll give you $100," one middle-aged needle recipient told Levine - as she and her brother shot up with the same syringe in a trash-strewn apartment, an infant she was "watching for a friend" asleep in a nearby crib.-- "New ones, new ones," another exchange participant called out as he walked up and down Greenmount Avenue, hawking clean syringes. "In these three blocks there are probably 15 people selling needles; everybody's got 'em," he told Levine, explaining how he picks up 25 "new ones" from the free-needle van, sells some for drugs, then scrounges up others for his next exchange.-- Even Durond Coats, a reformed addict cited as a success story by program officials, admitted that he sold needles to buy drugs during his first six months in the program.Some research suggests that needle exchanges do help cut HIV infection rates. But many of these studies are flawed by high dropout rates, small sample sizes or other problems. "The stronger the studies have been methodologically, the weaker the conclusion has been that HIV is actually being reduced," one research expert tells Reader's Digest. "That's a real warning sign."Two of the more comprehensive studies offer disquieting results:-- "Despite having the largest needle-exchange program in North America, Vancouver has been experiencing an ongoing HIV epidemic," admitted researchers who support that city's handouts.HIV infection rates soared among the city's injection-drug users between 1988 and 1997.-- Montreal researchers found that needle recipients there were nearly three times more likely to become infected with HIV as those not in the program. And as in Vancouver, needle-sharing there was widespread."Common sense tells you not to (share needles)," the Baltimore woman told Levine. "But when you feel like you're dying, you don't care."Needle-program advocates maintain that the handouts are, or should be, just part of a comprehensive strategy leading addicts to treatment. But Baltimore, for example, has less than 400 treatment spaces for hard-core addicts among the 10,000 enrolled in the program. Day after day, Levine saw users stream into the needle van seeking treatment -- only to walk out with bags of new syringes and the news that no treatment spaces were available."This program is not helping your addiction," one weathered junkie tells Levine. "It's just giving you an endless supply of clean needles to put the drugs into your veins."Updated 10:48 AM ET February 8, 2000 Pleasantville, N.Y., Feb. 8 - PRNewswire    For more information on this topic, visit: Copyright  1995-2000 Excite Inc. 
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Comment #3 posted by kaptinemo on February 09, 2000 at 11:18:10 PT
Thank you, Reader's Digest
The RD's dependence upon un-named 'experts' (probabaly some PR hack in McCaffrey's office, not a credible scientist) is one of the principle hallmarks of the 'yellow-dog' journalism the RD has suffered from for decades.I long ago stopped giving any credence in anything the RD had to say on the matter of drugs. The biases were just too blatant, the slavish devotion to the DrugWarrior party line too obvious - and the monetary incentives of cooperation with the ONDCP practically guarantee continued pseudo-'Reefer Madness' nonsense. But, for once, without even truly recognizing what they have done, the RD has for once told a truth. And their editors will probably have an apoplectic fit when they realized they just played into Reformers hands.They have just validated what many in addiction treatment have been saying for years: that more treatment centers must be made available. And that a safe place to 'shoot up' must be provided in order to prevent the kinds of abuses of the needle-exchange system that the RD is railing against in this article. Were the 'safe house' combined with treatment centers, then you would begin to see a reduction in AIDS cases.Thank you, Reader's Digest, for your unintended support. It is greatly appreciated. (Bronx cheer! Phbphbpht!)
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on February 08, 2000 at 20:55:56 PT
Reader's Digest!
I would rather give an addict clean needles so if the time came in his or her life that they wanted to stop they won't die from disease and that is the only humane way to look at it. What the Reader's Digest is saying to me is drug addicts are a nuisance and they just don't think their lives have any value and that sets off my righteous indignation.
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Comment #1 posted by CongressmanSuet on February 08, 2000 at 20:42:50 PT
Typical Readers Digest, considering ....
....there was a time when they unequivocally endorsed Hitlerism in pre-WW2 Germany. Anyway, I read this article, and it seems that we are treated to a typical running scared, WASPish piece, which fails to make any point other than to strengthen undercurring fears by saying that,byattempting any harm reduction, we are being soft on drugs, and this cannot EVER be tolerated. We are Americans, for God's sake! Of course, we have the usual cast of idiots spouting in the background[McPinnochio, ONDCP]. Im starting to think this is winnable.
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