Sunday, April 16

Nevada installs machines to give heroin addicts free syringes

As you may have heard, heroin use among young Americans has more than doubled over the past decade.  And between 2002 and 2013 heroin overdose deaths quadrupled.  So...crisis.  Everyone in the "disease" biz looking for a solution, right?

So here's how NBC reported the latest idea:  let's give heroin addicts free "works"--that would be syringes and even rubber tourniquets to find a nice fat vein to inject.  Very thoughtful.  Very...enabling.

Now, most people have heard that when junkies need a fix and don't have a needle, they share.  And that sharing needles spreads HIV and hepatitis.  So giving free needles to addicts is indeed likely to reduce the number of people getting AIDS.  Can't argue with that.  What I have a problem with is how NBC repeats the soothing propaganda that the program is "a new approach to combat rising heroin...rates."

It's not anything of the sort, of course.  In fact giving heroin addicts needles does nothing to reduce the number of heroin addicts.  But the clear implication of NBC's headline--"Heroin crisis"--implies that what follows is at least a partial solution to that crisis, when nothing of the sort is true.

Heroin Crisis: Nevada Becomes First State to Install Syringe Vending Machines

Las Vegas is betting on a new approach to combat rising heroin and HIV rates: vending machines of clean needles.

But the syringe exchange vending machines, a first in the United States, aren't open to just anyone walking by. They are accessible to clients of Trac-B Exchange, a program run by the "Las Vegas Harm Reduction Center."

And the machines don't take money. Instead, drug users scan a card and enter a unique ID number in order to vend one of the colorfully gift-wrapped boxes inside.

[A program manager said] "People are already [engaging] in these behaviors, and anytime someone's engaging in a behavior that could cause them some potential health side effects, we want to encourage them to reduce their risk of harm." 
Of course by giving them free "works" we'll encourage them to keep using heroin, because we don't want to criticize personal choices.  Might hurt our "clients" feelings.

For harm reduction workers, though, needle exchange is about a lot more than just lowering disease rates.

"It's a philosophy of service at the front end, and adjusting the way we look at drug users," said Liz Evans, the Executive Director at New York Harm Reduction Educators. "Too often we fail to see drug users as human beings, and they become defined by that and get called all these names like junkies and addicts. It becomes harder as a society to respond to them with kindness."
"A philosophy of service at the front end," eh?  Sounds great.  How 'bout if we give 'em free heroin too?  That would reduce the number of times addicts would have to rob people or steal stuff to get money for drugs.  And why not give 'em a nice comfy place to shoot up?  With taxpayer-funded medical staff on-site for the occasional overdose.  After all, we're all about "a philosophy of service."

In 2014, a harm-reduction group installed crack pipe vending machines in Vancouver, Canada.  And the same city opened a comfortable, taxpayer-funded injection site with medical staff.  If libs in Canada can get this done, why not here too?


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