Pubdate: Tue, 06 May 2008
Source: Times, The (Trenton, NJ)
Copyright: 2008 The Times
Author: Robert Sharpe


I write regarding Len Deo's opinion article "No reason to fund
needle-exchange programs" (May 3). Needle-exchange programs have been
shown to reduce the spread of HIV without increasing drug use. They
also serve as a bridge to drug treatment for an especially
hard-to-reach population. Unfortunately, such programs often give rise
to a NIMBY reaction.

An alternative is syringe-access regulation. Allowing drug users to
purchase clean needles in pharmacies has the added benefit of not
costing taxpayers a dime.

Unfortunately, tough-on-drugs politicians have built careers on
confusing drug prohibition's collateral damage with the drugs
themselves. Attempts to limit the supply of illegal drugs while demand
remains constant 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.

When politics trumps science, people die. Centers for Disease Control
researchers estimate that 57 percent of AIDS cases among women and 36
percent of overall AIDS cases in the U.S. are linked to injection-drug
use or sex with partners who inject drugs. This preventable public
health crisis is a direct result of zero-tolerance laws that restrict
access to clean syringes. Drug abuse is bad, but the drug war is worse.

Robert Sharpe, MPA,

Washington D.C.

The writer is policy analyst for Common Sense for Drug Policy.
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