Pubdate: Wed, 29 May 2002
Source: Maple Ridge News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2002 Maple Ridge News
Authors: Ari Elias-Bachrach, Matthew M. Elrod, Ethan Straffin, Mack Mcleod
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)


Editor, The News:

Re: 'Harm reduction,' needle exchange don't work, experts say" (May 18).

Contrary to popular myth, police officers are not scientific experts when 
it comes to drugs. Let's see an actual study, made by doctors and 
scientists, instead of anecdotal evidence from law enforcement agents and 
former addicts.

Ari Elias-Bachrach, St. Louis, Missouri

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Editor, The News:

For future reference, "beat cops" are not "experts" on harm reduction.

Publishing the opinions of a small group of police officers without calling 
attention to the contrary opinions of real public health experts and 
associations does a disservice to the community.

Contrary to the anecdotes of police officers Al Arsenault, Toby Hinton and 
Chuck Doucette, Health Canada, the U.S. Surgeon General, the World Health 
Organization, the U.S. National Institute of Health, the National Academy 
of Sciences, the American Public Health Association and the U.S. Center for 
Disease Control are unanimous in the opinion that needle exchange programs 
reduce the spread of infectious disease without encouraging drug use. The 
peer-reviewed research on which public health institutions base their 
position is as readily available as illicit drugs.

The next time you publish an article on harm reduction, I suggest you take 
the time to review the scientific literature and consult with real experts 
on the subject, such as Dr. Martin Schechter at the B.C. Centre for 
Excellence in HIV/AIDS.

Matthew M. Elrod, Victoria

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Editor, The News:

Before blindly accepting the word of any self-proclaimed expert on drug 
policy, any thinking citizen should consider the source's potential biases.

On May 25, the News reported that three law-enforcement officials and an 
ex-junkie who runs treatment programs were in town recently to argue 
against harm reduction and needle exchanges. We should ask ourselves: does 
being a cop does necessarily qualify someone as an expert on addiction or 
public health? And is a pay-to-play treatment provider whose business 
depends on a steady supply of addicts really interested in presenting us 
with the full story?

Here in the U.S., an extensive and prestigious list of authorities have 
lined up to present findings and express opinions that differ radically 
from those of the Rotary Clubs' recent guests. Major studies from the 
Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Science, former Surgeon 
General David Satcher, the National Institutes of Health Consensus Panel, 
the National Research Council, the Office of Technology Assessment and 
General Accounting Office of the U.S. Congress, the University of 
California, and the National Commission on AIDS all support the conclusion 
that needle exchanges improve public health without leading to increased 
drug abuse.

Former U.S. Surgeons General Joycelyn Elders and C. Everett Koop agree with 
this assessment as well, and the American Medical Association and American 
Public Health Association (along with a host of other major medical, legal, 
and social groups) have publically expressed their support for such programs.

I hope that the Rotary Clubs will do a better job in the future of 
presenting a more balanced program, and that the Maple Ridge News will be 
there for provide more balanced coverage.

Ethan Straffin, Palo Alto, California

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Editor, The News:

"They need the cure, not the poison..." says Billy Weselowski.

So what is the cure? Prison, rehabilitation programs, methadone, a stern 
"talking to" perhaps?

The only cure for addiction comes from inside the addict. Needle exchange 
doesn't do anything to prevent or cure addiction and I don't think anyone's 
claiming that it will. Prison and drug rehabilitation programs have little 
success in reducing recidivism. Jail doesn't help prisoners in any respect. 
It's designed to protect society but often reinforces a criminal lifestyle 
for those jailed. Drug use alone shouldn't turn a citizen into a criminal.

Needle exchange is designed to decrease the spread of needle sharing 
disease, decrease the incidence of used needles laying around public spaces 
and provide a focal point where addicts can receive communication about 
programs to help them quit.

It won't create more addicts, or less. It will bring them out of the 
shadows for a moment and decrease the spread of disease. That should be 
enough to justify such programs.

Those who are against harm reduction are moralizing against drug use and 
ignoring the realities. If they're really worried about youth, spend more 
time with them when they're children. A loving family and honest 
information do more to protect children than criminal laws and scare tactic 
drug education.

What sort of cure are they offering?

Mack Mcleod, Thornhill, Ont.
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