Value of needle exchanges accepted by U.S. government

The science has been clear on this for quite some time: needle exchange programs save lives, reduce the spread of HIV, and don’t cause any increase in drug use. It’s a real no-brainer, and it’s been bizarre that it’s taken the U.S. government so long to get on board, but they finally are.

White House moves to fund needle exchanges as drug treatment

The Obama administration has designated intravenous needle exchanges as a drug treatment program, allowing federal money set aside to treat addictions to be used to distribute syringes to narcotics users. [...]

The new position, determined by the surgeon general, is that the states can receive federal funding for programs that hand out the syringes as a treatment. [...]

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina M. Benjamin told The Washington Examiner that needle exchange programs can serve as a gateway to treatment for drug addiction, HIV and other diseases.

“This determination, based on years of scientific research, will permit states and territories to use Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant funds for what had formerly been termed ‘needle exchange,’ ” Benjamin said.

Well that’s pretty clear. And uncontroversial. After all, who would object to a program that saves lives, doesn’t increase drug use and helps move hard core addicts to treatment?


“It doesn’t pass any serious test of rationality,” said John P. Walters, the former drug czar under President George W. Bush. “It’s like the surgeon general deciding that handing out lighters is a good way to help people to stop smoking. It’s at least that absurd, and the consequences are even greater given the risks involved in IV drug use.”

The risks involved in IV drug use are precisely why this program is so important. And if cigarette lighters on the street were infected with the ebola virus, then yes, it would make sense health-wise to hand out lighters to smokers.

But Dr. Scott Teitelbaum, director of the University of Florida-run Florida Recovery Center, said, “Putting a needle in your arm is not recovery.” Teitelbaum said he opposed taking money from legitimate treatment programs to pay for needle exchange.

Translation: “I resent that you might take federal money away from me to fund something that actually works.”

Dr. Robert L. DuPont, president of the Institute for Behavior and Health in Rockville, said it’s possible that addicts will seek treatment after getting clean syringes, but there are more cost-effective ways of getting drug users to seek treatment.

“If someone proposed giving free drinks to treat alcoholism, they’d be laughed out of the building,” DuPont said. “But in the drug world, that’s considered good science.”

A more effective way is to spend the money to go into the shelters and communities hit hard by addictions and bring the addicts into treatment, said DuPont and other drug treatment experts.

Yeah, we can follow the Thailand example. Rounding up addicts into forced treatment? Really? That’s your solution? Are there perhaps some good reasons why that isn’t being done now? Like, oh, I don’t know, the U.S. Constitution?

Critics say the new policy is a step toward European-style treatment where the government provides the drugs and a clean room to inject them.

Oh, you mean the European programs where they’ve demonstrated an 88% reduction in crime, improved health, and a dramatic raising of the average age of addicts (because of addicts living longer and fewer young initiates)?

Yeah, we sure wouldn’t want anything like that to interfere with the jollies of our sadomoralists.

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