Overdoses

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Prosecutor Says Dangerous Heroin Now in Cape May County (New Jersey)

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
Press of Atlantic City
URL: 
http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/news/local/capemay/story/6583660p-6430459c.html

Mayor Seeks Drug Maintenance for Drug Addicts

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
Vancouver Sun
URL: 
http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/story.html?id=bf184ac0-01c2-4251-8c46-24cbb64be30f

The Heroin Overdose Wave Continues...

WFMZ-TV in Allentown, Pennsylvania, has reported another overdose from the fentanyl-laced heroin batch that is ravaging drug injecting communities in cities around the nation. Meanwhile, officials in South Jersey are trying to figure out what is causing the rash of overdoses in Vineland and are wondering if something may be contaminating the heroin supply there -- five people had to be rushed to the South Jersey Healthcare Regional Medical Center on Tuesday, according to The Press of Atlantic City. We need legalization! Heroin use can't be stopped, at least not in this way -- only a legal, regulated supply will allow for any reliable degree of control over the drug supply -- until prohibition is ended, drug users will always be at risk of this kind of often fatal harm, especially the addicted ones. It is indecent that we are subjecting these people to this kind of situation -- and it certainly means longer emergency room waits when the rest of us need the help. WMFZ-TV accepts comments here. The Press has information on submitting a letter to the editor, or a longer guest column, online here. Also click here to take action to support of a bill sponsored by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) to fund overdose prevention. And click here for a Drug War Chronicle report on the heroin/fentanyl overdose outbreak.
Location: 
Atlantic City, NJ
United States

Editorial: Do We Really Want to Help Kids Find the Drug Dealers?

David Borden, Executive Director

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/bordenoncouch-smaller.jpg
David Borden's usual Thursday evening editing session
One of this week's drug war news items is a legislative effort in the state of Maine to create a committee to study the possibility of a registry, accessible to the general public, of people who have been convicted repeatedly of drug offenses. Supporters have portrayed the idea as a way to help families protect their children from people in Maine who may want to provide drugs to them.

Even using drug war logic (generally a bad idea), this idea fails pretty decisively. Most kids don't start using drugs because they are offered them by professional dealers. Most kids start using drugs because they are offered them by other kids -- kids who are providing either for social reasons or because they have gotten involved in the criminal enterprise, but in either case not the repeatedly convicted adults who would pop up on the state's web site. It's also important to remember that most drug dealers never get caught, hence will never appear in the registry for that reason.

So while a registry would enable parents to be aware of some fraction of the serious drug dealers out there, it will miss (and perhaps divert attention from) the more common pathways through which drugs might get into the hands of their children. Furthermore, the same unstoppable economic process that turns any bust of a dealer into a job opportunity for new dealers, must also apply, at least partly, to any repeat dealers who lose business because some parents were able to keep their children clear of any given dealer -- if the kids are determined or even just willing, they'll wind up getting their drugs from someone else.

Most glaring, however, is an argument that was pointed out in a "practice" blog post by a member of our staff, Scott Morgan, on our soon-to-be-released new web site. Scott used a similar registry in Tennessee, limited to methamphetamine offenders, to show how usable it would be (perhaps is) to any young people, in any given county in the state, wishing to find leads on people in their county who might be able to sell them meth or other drugs -- an outcome exactly the opposite of what the registry purports to want to prevent.

The main difference (no pun intended) between Tennessee's registry and Maine's proposed registry, other than Maine's including all illegal drugs, is that Maine's is to be limited to "habitual" drug offenders, people who have been convicted of drug dealing multiple times. But repeat offenders are exactly the people who are the most likely to offend yet again -- the most usable listings for kids or others wanting to locate drug sellers conveniently narrowed down. But widening the registry to include all drug offenders won't help either -- because increasing the number of listings would also increase the registry's usability to kids wanting to find dealers. Either way you can't get around the idea that a drug offender registry is effectively a taxpayer-subsidized advertising campaign supporting drug dealing.

In the end, we must return to the issue that the primary way young people start to get involved in drug use is through the influence of other kids -- in many instances buying the drugs from other kids, in the schools. This is one of the factors that has led to an increased prevalence of handguns in schools -- where the underground market goes, so also tend to go weapons.

But it need not be that way. While use of alcohol by minors is a big issue (alcohol is just as much of a drug as any of the others, and a rather destructive one), at least kids are not buying it from other kids, in the school, from people who carry guns. That situation exists with the illegal drugs precisely because we have banned them. With drug legalization, the criminal problems associated with the trade in drugs would largely vanish -- no more armed drug trade in the schools, no more turf wars or open air markets.

And while the harm from the use of the drugs themselves will not simply disappear when prohibition is ended, the sheer level of destructiveness currently associated with addiction in particular would also drop substantially, as users would no longer be subject to the random impurities, and fluctuations in purity, that currently lead to poisonings and overdoses; and the high street prices drugs currently have would also drop, enabling many if not most addicts who are now driven to extreme behaviors like theft and prostitution to get the money to buy drugs to at least afford the habit through legal means of earning. Escalating the failed policy of prohibition won't accomplish this.

In the meanwhile let's at least cool it with these hare-brained ideas like drug offender registries. The continued stigmatization of people who have already been punished ought to be enough reason. But if it's not, the incredibly poor logic behind this idea ought to be. Do we really want to help kids find the drug dealers? I don't.

Overdose Deaths Outpacing Homicides in Philadelphia

The Philadelphia News reported Monday that despite the city having seen one of its deadliest weekends, drug overdoses, particularly from a batch of heroin laced with the even more powerful opiate fentanyl are claiming even more lives. The important thing to remember is that heroin users aren't dying simply because fentanyl is more potent than heroin. They are dying because the substance they are buying on the black market is more powerful than they believe it to be -- they think they are getting heroin, or if they're not sure they crave their fix so strongly that they are willing to take the chance. The illegal drug supply is uncertain in this way, because it is illegal, and for no other reason. Among legalization's many benefits will be increased safety for users, particularly addicts, and fewer accidental deaths. Send a letter to the editor to views@phillynews.com.
Location: 
Philadelphia, PA
United States

Police: Maryland Has Tainted Heroin

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
Associated Press
URL: 
http://www.wjla.com/news/stories/0706/345220.html

Greens Call for Heroin Import Trial (Australia)

Location: 
United States
URL: 
http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,19815713-5005961,00.html

Vancouver MP Libby Davies Urges Campaign to Save Safe Injection Site

INSITE, Vancouver's Downtown Eastside safe injection site, is in danger of being shut down after September 12 if the new conservative health minister doesn't reapprove it. Here's the email MP Libby Davies sent out today: Dear friends, I am writing you today regarding the fate of INSITE, North America’s first supervised safe injection facility. As you may know, this program started as a three-year study in September of 2003, and the results have been incredibly impressive. INSITE has reduced public injections, reduced the transmission of blood-borne infections like HIV and Hepatitis C, and reduced the number of injection-related infections. Most significantly, however, is that of 453 overdoses at INSITE, not one has resulted in a fatality. This is strong evidence of the success that this project has had in reducing the harm to drug-users. However, despite its successes, INSITE is at risk of closing down. The facility exists because of an exemption under Section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. If Health Minister Tony Clement does not renew this exemption, this facility will close down as of September 12th of this year. Therefore, I am urging you to take action. If you believe that INSITE should continue, then please let Tony Clement know! His email address is: Minister_Ministre@hc-sc.gc.ca Please send me a copy of your email to the Health Minister if you decide to write, and also send a copy to info@communityinsite.ca. I have included some recent letters that I have written to Prime Minister Harper and Health Minister Clement below for reference. You can also get additional information about the facility at “Insite for Community Safety” (www.communityinsite.ca). If we can speak with one voice, we can let this government know how people really feel about this important program. I thank you for your continued support! Yours sincerely, Libby Davies MP, Vancouver East
Location: 
United States

Australian MP Says Raves Safer Than Hotel Bars, Urges Pill Testing Programs

Location: 
United States
URL: 
http://www.theadvertiser.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5936,19698296%255E910,00.html

Canada: In Harm Reduction Bid, Vancouver Police to Stay Away From Overdose Calls

In a bid to reduce drug overdose deaths, police in Vancouver will no longer show up along with paramedics at drug overdose calls. That has already been unofficial practice for the past two years, but at a June 14 meeting, the Vancouver Police board voted to make it part of the department's official policy.

Citing Australian research that showed a police presence actually increased the likelihood of overdose deaths, Vancouver police suggested that if drug users do not fear arrest, they will be less reluctant to contact authorities in the event of an overdose, and in December 2003 began staying away from ODs. After a series of consultation with community groups, including the drug user group Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU), the practice became established, if informal, policy by the end of the following year.

"Research presented at a Heroin Overdose Prevention Conference in Seattle in 2000 revealed that despite the fact that half of overdose cases are witnessed by another person, the greatest barrier in obtaining emergency medical help was the fear that police would attend and lay charges for drug use," wrote Vancouver Police Inspector Ken Frail at the time. "Rather than face police intervention, many witnesses to a drug overdose would respond in an inappropriate way. Sometimes a victim would be dropped in a public place hoping they would be found, sometimes an incomplete phone call would be made and the caller would leave before medical help arrived. Sometimes the overdose victim would be abandoned," he noted.

"Vancouver Police recognize that drug overdose cases are primarily medical emergencies requiring rapid response," Frail explained. "The new policy tends to restrict police attendance at overdose calls except in cases where public safety requires police attendance. The police role at a drug overdose call is clarified as 'assisting with life saving measures and public safety.'"

It worked for Vancouver in 2004 and 2005, and now the Police Board has made it official policy. It is a harm reduction measure American cities would do well to consider emulating.

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