Pubdate: Fri, 18 Feb 2005
Source: Malden Observer (MA)
Copyright: 2005 Community Newspapers Inc.
Author:  Robert Sharpe
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)
Bookmark: (Heroin)


To the editor:

Please consider publishing the following brief letter in response to Chris 
DiPietro's Feb. 11th op-ed ("Opiate habit easy to get by prescription," 
Page 10): Because heroin is sold via an unregulated illicit market, its 
quality and purity fluctuate tremendously. A user accustomed to low-quality 
heroin who unknowingly uses near pure heroin will likely overdose. The 
inevitable tough-on-drugs response to overdose deaths threatens public 
safety. Attempts to limit the supply of drugs while demand remains constant 
only increase the profitability of trafficking. For addictive drugs like 
heroin, a spike in street prices leads desperate addicts to increase 
criminal activity to feed desperate habits. The drug war doesn't fight 
crime, it fuels crime.

While the United States remains committed to puritanical drug policies 
modeled after its disastrous experiment with alcohol prohibition, Europe 
has largely abandoned the drug war in favor of harm reduction alternatives. 
Switzerland's heroin maintenance trials have been shown to reduce 
drug-related disease, death and crime among chronic 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 if not for 
artificially inflated black-market prices.

Providing chronic addicts with standardized doses in a clinical setting 
eliminates many of the problems associated with heroin use. Heroin 
maintenance pilot projects are under way in Canada, Germany, Spain and the 
Netherlands. If expanded, prescription heroin maintenance would deprive 
organized crime of a core client base. This would render illegal heroin 
trafficking unprofitable and spare future generations addiction. Putting 
public health before politics may send the wrong message to children, but I 
like to think the children are more important than the message.

Robert Sharpe

Policy Analyst

Common Sense for Drug Policy

Washington, D.C. 
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