Pubdate: Tue, 15 Aug 2000
Source: Ottawa Sun (CN ON)
Copyright: 2000, Canoe Limited Partnership
Contact:  380 Hunt Club Rd., Ottawa, Ontario, K1G 5H7
Author: Dave Haans,


Re "Needle exchange does more harm than good," by Steve Madely (Aug. 10): 
Madely tries valiantly to make the assertion that needle exchange programs 
have actually caused infection rates to rise in major urban centres, 
including Ottawa. But, he never discusses what is really causing the rates 
to rise.

In his main argument, he fails to note that in most of the main urban 
centres in this country, there has been a huge increase in the number of 
addicts injecting crack cocaine rather than (or, in addition to) heroin. 
Since crack cocaine is typically injected many more times than heroin would 
be, this has led to much more needle use, and resulted in more people both 
sharing dirty needles and using needle exchange programs.

Of course, this means that we can expect the statistics to show that those 
using needle exchange programs are more at risk, and also accounts for the 
rise in infectious diseases among users. Combine this with a pitiful lack 
of treatment centres, over-reliance on police and the courts to uselessly 
try to deal with what is a health and not a legal issue, and you have an 
extremely serious health situation that is not going to go away no matter 
how many times you decry the lack of morality in today's society.

Madely tries to shrug all of this off by writing that needle exchange 
programs have caused a rise in infectious diseases. However, this is like 
saying that providing treatment for alcoholics simply means that more 
people will drink because the resources are there. Trying to say that this 
is the result of a "permissive society" is just as wrong -- would Madely 
also try to assert that if he had access to condoms in high school, he 
would have had more romantic partners in Grade 12? I know I couldn't!

But, in the end, Madely's biggest mistakes are his assertions that more 
policing and forced treatment will solve these serious drug problems. One 
needs to only glance at the U.S., where rapists and murderers are routinely 
let out of prison early to make room for non-violent drug offenders serving 
horrendous mandatory minimums.

And, with respect to forced treatment, that approach has never worked to 
reduce drug use, period. Why not have voluntary treatment beds readily 
available so that when someone addicted to heroin or cocaine really wants 
to quit, they don't face a soul-crushing six-month waiting period? It would 
be an order of magnitude cheaper than relying on police and the courts to 
try to (but rarely) heal our sick.

Dave Haans

(Your first point only makes sense if you assume crack users get their 
needles solely from needle exchange programs, but at least we'll agree 
there needs to be more treatment programs)
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MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart