Why is DEA Condemning Efforts to Prevent Heroin Deaths?

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There are many ways for drug warriors to sound heartless and cruel in the drug policy debate, but one of the worst is certainly the objection to life-saving harm reduction programs. Just watch this DEA spokesman complain about efforts to reduce HIV infection in New York:

Harm reduction is a matter of public health for everyone, not just drug users. To frame this as a simple question of whether we should be "teaching people how to do drugs" is powerfully shortsighted and oblivious to the actual risks that drug policy should seek to address.

It's incredible that these drug warriors spend so much time warring against imaginary and exaggerated drug threats, while simultaneously opposing sensible approaches in those areas where legitimate health concerns do exist.

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Press bias

I suppose I just habitually tune out anything the DEA says. I'm a little more concerned by the needlessly inflammatory tone taken by the AP reporter: "The city spent $32,000 on fliers that have been distributed since 2007. Regardless of the controversy, health officials have no plans of stopping the program".

To me this report comes off with the message that "look, the city is spending your tax dollars telling people it's safe to shoot heroin". While I'm happy the media has sobered up in it's discussion of cannabis, it seems there's a ways to go before we start getting intelligent reporting on other drug issues. This is of course a known negative consequence of having a commercial media structure: they thrive on controversy, whether that controversy is well founded or not.

Media's Focus

Media always wants to create as big a 'splash' as possible and this clip is a fine example of that. You will never get rid of the media bias while ever the media knows it has a big enough audience who WANT to hear about 'misuse' of public funding. There's nothing new here.

AP Reporter shows bias against harm reduction

William Aiken

The AP reporter avoided asking relevent and tough questions of law enforcement and treatment officials. For law enforcement is would have been refreshing for the Reporter to clarify that the DEA person believes this pamphet would cause people to inject heroin, who wouldn't indulge in such a behavior, otherwise. For the treatment expert who claimed there's no safe method for injecting heroin, I would ask if the information in the pamphet reduces some of the harm assoicated with use of the drug.

Fair and balanced journalism requires more than just quoting sources with opposite viewpoints. The AP reporter focussed on the cost to taxpayers without mentioning the savings the program provides with education and not having to spend money on treating more addicts with HIV and other diseases. Then she concludes her story by exclaiming that the program will continue as if that's some sort of travesty for the public or that the plug should be pulled on the program because the DEA doesn't approve of it.

Honest education concerning drug use is the enemy of the DEA and this reporter appears to be in alliance with them by giving a platfrom to misrepresent the facts without any challenge of their illogic.

Who Are the Uproarers?

I don’t see any uproar.  All I see is Dr. Herbert Kleber, an elderly Colombia University psychiatrist, and a right wing ONDCP quack whose career has sucked the teats of the drug war cash cow for 35 years.

And I see John Gilbride, a man obviously aiming for a top spot in the rough and tumble world of the DEA.  To achieve that goal, Mr. Gilbride just engineered a massive news release condemning the pamphlet.  Yes, he truly thinks everyone will share his odd belief that if people know how to inject heroin safely, then they can’t possibly know anything else about the drug.

As bad apples go, inept drug warriors like these two are useful only in that they provide reformers with countless arguments for ending prohibition.


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