Two editorials from The Trentonian newspaper adding weight to the case against needle exchange programmes……..
You often hear those who are opposed to supplying addicts with clean needles at public expense say the loony idea is just a first step. The long-term goal of advocates, they declare, is the full legalization of drugs.
We doubt that such a broad generalization can be validly asserted regarding advocates who are championing pending legislation to set up a needle-exchange program in New Jersey. Some advocates probably do favor decriminalization to some, extent or another. Others (few in number, we suspect) may favor sweeping legalization. In any event, time devoted to guessing at people’s motives is seldom time constructively spent. Although we’re adamantly opposed to a needle welfare dole for addicts, we’re willing to take advocates at their word when they say they’re motivated by the belief that supplying New Jersey addicts with sterile needles will help curtail the spread of HIV.
Having said that, however, we would point out a reality there’s no ducking about New Jersey’s needle-hand- out initiative: To a significant extent, it is a de facto legalization itself. A state government-supervised program would hand out needles to addicts with the express understanding that those needles were to be used to inject a “controlled dangerous substance” banned by law. So the needle handout would become to some extent – the extent depending on the level of program participation – a de facto legalization of one of the most addictive, potentially lethal, crime-breeding street drugs in circulation.
And to a (hopefully) limited degree, a needle-exchange program entails de jure legalization of heroin on the streets. If the government is going to dole out needles to addicts with the express understanding addicts will use those needles to mainline heroin, the government can hardly then descend on these addicts and collar them for shooting up when the addicts did so with the government’s own assistance.
Therefore, pending legislation not only legalizes the possession of hypodermic needles without a prescription but adds the stipulation: “This provision shall extend to a syringe or hypodermic needle that contains a residual amount of a controlled dangerous substance or controlled substance analog;” How much is a “residual amount”? Not much, presumably. But the legislation doesn’t say. Whatever quantity of heroin a “residual amount” might ultimately be construed to be by New Jersey’s activist judiciary, the possession of that quantity would be fully legalized.
Is it entirely inconceivable that there might be a risk of legal liability when the state government involves itself in the drug underworld to this extent – to the extent of distributing hypodermic needles to addicts, legalizing the possession of hypodermic needles without a prescription and stipulating that syringes may legally contain a residual quantity of heroin?
Let us set aside for the time being the equally if not more serious issue of moral liability – the issue of the state’s playing the role of an official enabler of drug addiction. What is the state’s legal liability when an addict fatally overdoses, as addicts not uncommonly do, using one of those state-supplied needles? What is the state’s legal liability when one of those addicts, enabled to pursue his addiction with the help of state-supplied needles, resorts to crime to subsidize his craving for heroin, as addicts commonly do? What is the state’s legal liability if a child near a needle-exchange site pricks himself or herself with a state-distributed, later-discarded, contaminated needle?
Are advocates able to say with certainty, or anything reasonably approaching it, that there is no risk of legal liability involved? Are advocates able to offer such reassurance in a state notorious for its shark-like plaintiffs bar and a judiciary that’s a notorious patsy for expansive liability claims?
Needle-handout advocates insist here would be “rehabilitation outreach” efforts to accompany needle exchanges. But what if it turns out there aren’t. Or what if those efforts are insufficient according to the legal analysis of a resourceful attorney for an addict plaintiff?
Is an addict needle dole worth these risks when the premise of advocates – that needle handouts discourage needle sharing by addicts – remains a topic much in scientific dispute?
Source: editorial, the trentonian, sunday, december 14, 2003
ADDICT NEEDLE DOLES: STILL A TERRIBLE IDEA
Oh no, not again.…. Yes again.
Like the telemarketers who keep calling at dinner time, the snake oil peddlers are again pitching their panacea for heroin addiction and HIV.
Their miracle cure is simple, as miracle cures tend to be. Simply have the state establish a welfare needle dole for addicts. The state would become a pusher of sorts but would supply only the syringes, not the dope.(Not at first anyway.)
The rationale is that if taxpayer-funded sterile needles are distributed to addicts, the addicts will cease sharing contaminated needles and spreading HIV. Heroin addicts are leading victims of the virus in New Jersey.
A movement is stirring in the state legislature again, as it does from time to time, with Gov. Jim McGreevey’s encouragement, to set up a needle exchange program, an NEP. Needle-exchange sites tend to degenerate into fetid pockets of crimes. So it is perhaps understandable that the governor and needle-dole advocates like Assemblyman Reed Gusciora are evasive about where they would locate the program. It’s a safe bet, however, that it wouldn’t be located anywhere near their nice neighborhoods in Princeton.
Advocates of addict needle doles take the snooty position that any who have doubts about the idea may be dismissed as moralizing, right-wing, fundamentalist cranks who are more comfortable with superstition than science. There’s a facile trendiness to the NEP crusade. The advocates assert that “studies” have proven conclusively the efficacy of needle handouts, as if the issue is scientifically settled beyond dispute. It is not. Yes there are such studies, many of which, on closer examination, prove to be the products of advocacy, not dispassionate science. These studies generally are based on a key methodological flaw. They rely on self-reporting results from addicts, a notoriously unreliable group. The studies of existing NEP’s elsewhere tend to take the addict’s word for it when the addicts show up at the needle dole for a new batch of syringes and aver that they never shared the old batch with fellow addicts.
NEP advocates note that needle doles have the support of, for example, the American Medical Association. That venerable professional and lobbying organization has no special expertise in the subject area, however. There are, though, other reputable sources with expertise in the area who have raised questions about the miracle-cure claims of NEP activists.
A 1995 National Research Council Institutes of Medicine study reported that 39 percent of addicts in needle-exchange programs actually continue to share needles. A1997 report in the American Journal of Epidemiology suggested that addicts in such programs may be even more inclined than other addicts to share needles. The New England Journal of Medicine reported in 1994 that addicts have a high incidence of HIV infection not just because of needles but also because of their tendency to engage in risky behavior, such as prostitution. A University of Pennsylvania study of 415 addicts similarly concluded that more addicts die from overdoses, violent crime and various health problems than from AIDS.
A recent op-ed by an NEP activist arrogantly asserted that those who dare question the NEP orthodoxy would have “politics trump science.” But it’s the needle-dole activists who would have politics trump science – and common sense as well.
It is a patently ludicrous notion that needle-using addicts – whose lives, by that very fact, have taken a turn toward irresponsibility and recklessness – can be depended on to show fastidious discipline in not sharing their doled-out needles with other addicts. Addicts are not, by a large, in a frame of mind to make rational judgements. Especially not when they are in the zonked-out stage known as “nodding.”
Those who work with addicts will tell you that some of the most serious obstacles to rehabilitation are the addict’s family and friends. By well-meaning acts of compassion, family and friends unwittingly enable addicts to avoid taking the difficult steps toward dealing with their addiction. “Enablers”, these family and friends are called.
Make no mistake about it, what needle exchange activists are proposing is that the State of New Jersey become the biggest enabler of them all.
Source: EDITORIAL, THE TRENTONIAN, MONDAY DECEMBER 2, 2003