New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has made headlines by distributing 70,000 copies of a free “Safe-Injection Guide” which gives heroin addicts a series of detailed tips on how to shoot-up properly. Is this a compassionate and pragmatic concession to the realities of life in a modern major city, or a waste of taxpayer dollars?
Steve was only eleven or twelve when I came to live with him, so I had a good seat for the tail end of his childhood and his adolescence before he moved out and I was eventually stowed for several years in a box in a backyard shed that stank of gasoline fumes (for which I have completely forgiven him, not that he ever asked). Steve’s first alcoholic drink, a glass of homemade wine, was given him by his Mom and Dad when he was about 13. Though he never became a drunk, and drinks very little to this day, he and his younger brother were allowed the occasional beer or shot of whiskey at home, well before they were of legal age. Steve’s Mom justified this by saying “If he’s going to drink, I’d rather he do it here at home, where he’ll be safer than if he’s out getting drunk God-knows-where.”
It’s a philosophy shared by the City of New York, judging by this “10 Tips for Safer Use” brochure. The city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene appears to be throwing up its hands on the whole drug issue. After decades of trying and failing to dissuade thousands of people from injecting a highly addictive and potentially lethal poison into their bodies, the city is declaring “the hell with it” and settling for educating junkies on how to shoot-up “the right way.” But is heroin use really as inevitable as teenage drinking, even in New York? I would think in New York least of all — there’s just so much more to do with yourself. Maybe I’d consider hitting the mainline if there wasn’t an FAO Schwartz and a gigantic Toys R Us right there in Times Square!
A few of the tips themselves are a little iffy, too. For instance, the first tip is “Prevent overdose.” No kidding. What’s one way to prevent overdose? “Use with someone else.” I guess that means taking turns, because I don’t see what the point would be of two junkies shooting up at the same time and watching that the other’s lips don’t turn blue.
The idea of giving heroin addicts tips on better heroin use seems silly to me, but I must not forget that New York has long operated syringe exchanges where addicts can trade used needles for clean ones and get supplies of the drug naloxone, which can save your life if you overdose. Viewed in that light, this little brochure is much ado about not much. New York has been making life easier for heroin addicts for years already.
This is a terrible idea. I’m against all this kind of stuff — giving tips to junkies on shooting-up, handing out free artillery, all of it. The bleeding-hearts who support these programs say it’s out of concern for the safety of the addicts, but all they wind up doing is creating more addicts by making it so damn easy to get your hands on needles and cookers and even spoons — who doesn’t have a spoon already? More heroin addicts means more heroin dealers, and more heroin dealers means more heroin, which just kills the market.
Back when I was on the force, a fella could make a good living for himself selling heroin, or at least generate a reliable supplemental income. Supplying a small but loyal clientele of desperate, grasping dregs of humanity with the H for which their sclerotic veins ached could afford you a nice house with a big back yard, all the tennis balls and Frisbees you’d care to chase, and all the hard tack and rawhide bones you could ever hope to gnaw in a single lifetime. Now that’s all been ruined. Have you seen the shitholes drug dealers are living in these days? Christ, they’re no better than common squatters! Is dealing dope really that much better than working at 7-Eleven when you don’t even have a working toilet?
Some say the market has been spread so thin because of meth, which is cheaper and more readily available, but I’d still argue that big cities just giving vein tackle away can’t be helping. Why not just pass out the fucking schmeck for free, too, while you’re at it? No reason why anybody should make any money off of anything, apparently.
I don’t know what’s happening to this country . . .