Needle Exchange Saves Lives. Why Are We Still Arguing About It?

AP has a good story reminding us of the plight of Bill Day, whose effort to reduce AIDS in San Antonio has been blocked by overzealous local drug warriors.

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Bill Day is a familiar face out under the San Antonio viaducts, where skinny addicts shoot drugs into their bruised arms.

Day, 73, is the source of something many of them desperately need: clean syringes, which Day sees as his calling from God to prevent the spread of disease.

Authorities see it differently. Backed by an opinion from the Texas attorney general, District Attorney Susan Reed says she can prosecute anyone in possession of drug paraphernalia, regardless of the reason they have it.

"I am really angry," Day said, pointing to piles of used needles in the brush under a bridge on the city's West side. "Every day we're not out here, someone is getting HIV."

How can anyone possibly dispute that? The drug czar's office continues to maintain that needle exchange enables drug use and makes the problem worse, to which Day responds:

"No one says to themselves, 'They're giving away syringes, let's go get some heroin,'"

The reality that addicts will shoot up with or without clean needles shouldn't have to be debated or even explained. It is deeply disturbing to witness opposition to proven AIDS prevention practices from the very people who are supposed to be protecting our society from the harms of drugs. For the thousandth time, I find myself shaking my head in amazement that the people in charge of our drug policy want to reduce the availability of clean needles.
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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If addicts die drug use goes down

It seems that the San Antonio strategy is that if addicts get infected and die then drug use will go down, hence a victory for the drug warriors. Maybe the local law enforcement should begin selling heroin laced with fentanyl to help speed up the process.

Dan Linn
Executive Director Illinois NORML

Disregard Drug Warrior Propaganda—Watch What They Do Instead

Drug warrior perceptions on issues such as clean needle exchanges are undoubtedly troubling and puzzling—but maybe less puzzling if we model drug enforcement as something alien to the body politic, as a kind of rogue totalitarian movement, offering exciting careers to those with fascist proclivities and no conscience.

As Americans, we expect U.S. government agencies to demonstrate a collective conscience, despite the inevitable random exceptions among certain individuals.  For example, the EPA, NASA, and other agencies manage to espouse an acceptable moral world view.  However, this same kind of moral view is missing among drug warriors, as well as from the collective outlook of their various agencies.

Drug warrior culture is ostensibly charged with eliminating illicit drugs in order to protect the public.  Ultimately, it acts as an agency designed to eliminate people, usually by inflicting some kind of social death, or even a real death upon them.

Also, a bridge of logic and reason normally connects government entities to American civilians, thereby making possible useful communications between people and their government.  Within U.S. drug enforcement, this bridge has been out of commission for decades.  In place of logic and reason is a web of drug warrior propaganda that creates for public consumption a fictitious world view about drug use, while simultaneously providing a means of preventing drug enforcement itself from being found out.

Totalitarian minded people such as LA Police Chief Darryl Gates proclaimed before Congress that casual drug users should be taken out and shot.  Former Drug Czar Bill Bennett said that drug dealers should be beheaded.  Given these candid examples, and many others, drug enforcement begins to resemble a totalitarian movement of the type seen with Hitler and his eugenics program.  Hitler, had he survived, planned among other things to exterminate every Pole in Poland, as well as anyone with congenital heart disease.

With his racist agenda in the 1930s, the father of modern drug prohibition, Harry J. Anslinger fits the mold of someone with a bourgeois fascist contempt for the masses, as well as a primitive-minded vindictiveness toward what’s seen as social or genetic imperfections.  Anslinger’s putrefying legacy lives on within the insular world of the DEA and ONDCP.

Thus, I’m not surprised when drug enforcement derides clean needle exchanges.  It fits their program.


This is Hate crimes

Here is proof that drug policy is endangering people rather than just the drugs. If the people in charge were really interested in saving lives they would not let their victims die. Responsible people would help those victimized by drugs try to servive and rehabilitate. They would not be enforceing ways to speed up a persons dealth. Law enforcement should be about protecting lives instead of trying to kill off those who have a drug problem.

The drug war should be about compassion, with treatment and education instead of treating users as criminals and torturing them as war prisoners.

What is needed is intelligent change for the hope of humanity, not drug user genocide. The drug warriors one day will be regarded as bad as slave owners or Nazis. The time is now for these people to evolve instead of hate.

As an addict, I can say that

As an addict, I can say that the broad worldview espoused by drug warriors, and presented in thousands of ways- that addicts are worthless, that those who want to get clean arent worth saving (as proven by drug warriors creating a world where it as likely as possible that I would get hep c, HIV, or overdose- where those risks are not minimized, but magnified as much as possible). I had to find it in myself to believe that my life was worth saving, even if others (charged with the seemingly noble job of protecting citizens froms drugs) thought I should be shot or beheaded. Every day I faced countless situations that told me I was worthless. If there was one thing I needed then, it was people, and a legal and healthcare system that believed believed in my ability to heal myself, and believed that my value as a human was equal to theres. They werent there, at least not in the legal and medical arenas- and it made the work it took to achieve sobriey and become a productive member of society again that much more difficult for me.

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