Heroin Safety: An Oxymoron?

One state’s department of health office has raised eyebrows with a brochure aimed at helping heroin users “stay safe.”

No one questions the motives behind the pamphlet produced by the New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene. The 16-page “Take Charge, Take Care: 10 Tips for Safer Use” brochure was created “to help people who are injecting drugs reduce the harm associated with this type of drug use until they are able to get into treatment and recover,” according to the agency.

The project was meant to save lives, but critics worry that the document – produced at a cost of more than $32,000 to taxpayers – can also serve as a “how-to” manual. Others see it as the government implying there is a “safe” way to inject drugs.

“Heroin use is at epidemic levels in New York, and we should be spending money to address that, not teach first-timers how to use,” says New York City Councilman Peter F. Vallone Jr., chairman of the council’s Public Safety Committee in an article on CNN.com.

Including sections like “how to prevent overdose,” “prepare drugs carefully” and “take care of your veins,” the pamphlet also offers tips such as “use with someone else,” “use a new syringe every time” and gives suggestions on how to best find a vein. Those behind the document are careful to point out that there is also a category titled, “ask for help to stop using.”

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg addressed the issue recently, explaining, “using hard drugs is just not a smart thing to do, but we have an obligation no matter what the people do in this city to make sure they do it as safe as they can.”


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