THE WAR ON DRUGS
IS OFFERING STERILE NEEDLES SELLING OUT
OR JUST GOOD MATH AND PREVENTION?
US TX: Column: Drugs Are Dangerous! Mmm-kay?
Pubdate: Fri, 01 Apr 2005
Source: Free Press, The (Houston, TX)
Copyright: 2005 The Free Press, Houston
Author: Dean Becker
DRUGS ARE DANGEROUS! MMM-KAY?
Violent enforcers of the drug cartels are rampaging on both sides of the Mexican/US border killing cops, journalists and innocent civilians. Osama bin Laden and the Taliban are harvesting tens of millions of dollars each year from their control of the Afghan drug trade. Drug gangs in the US are responsible for needless and countless deaths, mutilations and other violent and reprehensible acts designed to ensure their sales turf remains intact. Each year hundreds of thousands of Americans contract HIV, Hep C or other deadly diseases because government policy will not allow for easy exchange or sales of hypodermic syringes.
Recently, the Houston Chronicle gave a one-two punch in behalf of needle exchange programs. The Chronicle stated that numerous studies across the country have shown significant decreases in both HIV and hepatitis C infections in cities that have needle exchange programs. This editorial also displayed for all the see the enormous fiscal failure of prohibiting needle exchange: compassion isn't persuasive enough, lawmakers should consider the massive costs to taxpayer-funded health programs. According to statistics compiled by the Communicable Disease Prevention Project of the Texas ACLU, the average yearly cost for a local syringe exchange program is $169,000, while the lifetime cost of treating one person infected with HIV is $119,000 -- $100,000 for a victim of Hepatitis C. If such programs had prevented just 5 percent of the 113,000 HIV and hepatitis C cases reported in Texas between 2000-2003, a half billion dollars in health costs would have been saved. ( The actual percentage is more like 35% )
The second punch from the Chronicle came from William Martin, Senior Fellow at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University. This, my friends is no lightweight outfit. In the spring of 2002, the Baker Institute sponsored an international drug conference which brought to the fore, doctors, scientists, authors and even the director of the US office of drug control policy, the ONDCP. Professor Martin had an opinion piece in the Chronicle the same day as the editorial, here's part of that OPED: Using drugs such as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamines, particularly in the corrupted state in which they typically reach the retail market, is risky business. The professor, in a subsequent phone conversation with yours truly, stated: by the time these drugs hit the street, they are likely to be mixed with almost anything which are not only cutting it, but are making it more toxic.
The Professor closed his piece with these thoughts: Without exception, every independent commission to look at this issue has concluded that these programs dramatically reduce the spread of blood-borne diseases without increasing either rates of injection or use of other illegal drugs.
Why, then, have policymakers, from the White House to City Hall, resisted establishment of such proven life-saving programs?
The real reason may be fear that any sign of being soft on drugs will hurt their standing among people who have not looked at the issue.
But the rationale most commonly, often honestly, offered is, "It sends the wrong message=94.
The Texas Legislature is considering a bill to permit needle exchange programs. No responsible person wants to encourage drug abuse.
No fiscally prudent person wants to waste money simply to satisfy a sense of righteous indignation. No compassionate person wants to consign people unnecessarily to death or a living hell. Fortunately, providing injecting drug users with access to sterile syringes allows us to be responsible, prudent and compassionate -- admirable criteria for good public policy.
To read this full policy paper please go to: www.bakerinstitute.org/Pubs/wp_needles.pdf.
There is nothing compassionate, smart or scientific about the current tactics of the drug war. Contact your Texas legislators at: www.capitol.state.tx.us
DR. SCHALLER NEITHER SUPPORTS NOR OPPOSES THE MATERIAL LISTED ABOVE. HOWEVER, HE DOES FEEL THIS IS AN IMPORTANT ISSUE TO DEBATE, SINCE THE DRUG WAR HAS FAILED TO DO ANYTHING BUT PUT EXPERT PAIN PHYSICIANS IN JAIL, AND JUST TEN HIV TRANSMISSION PREVENTIONS IS WORTH MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF MONEY... OH, AND TEN PEOPLE WOULD NOT DIE.
IF YOU ARE INTERESTED THE LINKS ABOVE LOOK USEFUL.