Pubdate: Thu, 20 Jun 2002
Source: Johnson City Press (TN)
Copyright: 2002 Johnson City Press and Associated Press
Author: Robert Sharpe
Bookmark: (Methadone)
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)


EDITOR: Johnson City residents need not fear a downtown methadone clinic.

Methadone maintenance is the most effective known treatment for heroin 
addiction. It's also a viable treatment for synthetic opiates like 
OxyContin. Methadone staves off potentially deadly withdrawal symptoms, but 
does not produce a high that prevents patients from living productive lives.

Methadone maintenance programs have been proven to reduce drug use and 
related crime, death, and disease among chronic drug users.

Addicts would not be sharing needles if not for zero tolerance laws that 
restrict access to clean syringes, nor would they be committing crimes to 
support their habits if not for artificially inflated black market prices.

Methadone maintenance is a prime example of harm reduction, an alternative 
approach to drug policy and treatment that seeks to minimize the adverse 
effects of both drug use and drug prohibition. America's drug problem is 
far too serious to allow zero tolerance to dominate the debate at the 
expense of public health.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 57% of 
AIDS cases among women are linked to injection drug use or sex with 
partners who inject drugs.

Overall, 36% of AIDS cases in the United States can be traced back to 
intravenous drug use. This easily preventable public health crisis is a 
direct result of zero tolerance. Criminalizing illegal drug use compounds 
the problem. Would alcoholics seek help for their addiction if doing so 
were tantamount to confessing to criminal activity? Drug abuse is bad, but 
the zero tolerance drug war is worse.

ROBERT SHARPE, M.P.A., Program Officer

Drug Policy Alliance, Washington, D.C.
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