Harm Reduction As Policy

thomas vance Published:

Here we go again! Another article in the Kentucky Enquirer deploring the number of heroin overdose deaths in Northern Kentucky, ’Overdose Deaths Soaring in NKY‘ 29 November 2012. This one focuses on the number of deaths, approaching 200 for the year, compared with 151 in 2010 and 135 in 2011. I guess the number high enough to get peoples attention seems to be between 150 and 200. County Corner David Suetholtz said, “It’s a combination of medications, however over the last six months deaths from heroin have jumped dramatically.”

Humm? Wonder what happened in the last six months that would cause a rise in black market heroin sales? How ‘bout Kentucky’s implementation of stricter controls and reporting requirements for prescription drugs which has resulted in the closing of fly by night pain clinics? A classic squeeze of the sausage, clamp down on one end and it bulges out on the other. Clamp down on prescription pain killers and you get an increase in heroin use.

Sadly the article compared these tragic heroin deaths to the 34 deaths from traffic accidents last year. The problem with this comparison is that drivers, unlike drug users, have had fifty years of seatbelts, airbags, safety studies, regulations and harm reduction policies. Can you imagine if instead of prohibition and the damage to the family and society that comes with it we had instead, harm reduction as the underlying policy we use for drug abuse and addiction? Truth is, our efforts to control drug use and abuse will never get any better under the current policy.

Prohibition as policy started with the Harrison Act in 1914, 98 years ago. Ninety eight years and the percentage of the population addicted to drugs is the same as it was in 1914.

Had harm reduction been the policy lo these last 98 years we might not be decrying the death rate from heroin as we are now. Yes, we might even have seen a decline in drug use and abuse as they have in Portugal rather than what we have and will continue to have, a never ending chase after the current bulge in the drug war sausage!

The time has come for us to recognize the complete lack of effectiveness of our current policy for handling drugs and drug abuse. Time to scrap the 19th century policy of prohibition for a 21st century policy that has proven effective. Time to adopt harm reduction as basic drug policy.

Want to leave your comments?

Sign in or Register to comment.

  • Cut off your finger and you can't sweep...

  • Folks should care about getting back to the basics on whether these routine low-level drug sweeps of the downtrodden masses are worth it. They certainly are expensive. According to our local expert on the efficiency of such bureaucratic exercises in futility, Commonwealth Attorney Larry Cleveland, says, "Stopping drug trafficking is like trying to stop the Kentucky River with a broom.", when asked by the SJ about a local drug bust. .............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................. Most rational folks would agree that "trying to stop the Kentucky River with a broom" is impossible and continuing to do so is certifiably demented, and yet there are those who say they love it, love it, and want more of it. ............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... Mr. Cleveland's righteous admission of the failure of his efforts and more generally, those of the Drug War, is offset by his insane conclusion regarding what we should do about it in the future..."I wish we'd do a roundup like this every month," Cleveland said. "Overall it's good for the community." That is an insane conclusion, by definition. .............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................. How's that Mr. Cleveland? It is certainly good for YOUR job security and the local constabulary, since most of the money coming into your all's offices is from federal grants based in part on how many drug busts and cases you process. And it all costs lots and lots of money...from January 1 until this date it has cost our nation over $37,873,880,685 BILLION tax dollars,and that total is increasing at a rate of $500 a second. To see the exact amount click on the Drug War Cost Clock here: http://www.drugsense.org/cms/wodclock There is a "giant hole" that has been dug by this 40 year DRUG WAR where we have thrown nearly $38 BILLION so far this YEAR..and like a black hole in space, it sucks in all our money and apparently, even the light of logic and reason. We simply do not have the money to keep doing these really expensive things that have proven over time to not work, as Cleveland himself admits. Don't take my word for it, listen to Larry Cleveland's words themselves. If you are going to spend that much money, it just makes sense to be doing things that DO work. Certainly, even Mr. Cleveland should be able to think of a few novel ideas that have more of a chance of success than "trying to stop the KY River with a broom"! The real experts already know what they are, as they are being used in other countries for decades. Maybe we need to rethink this through some...that is what is important.

  • There were 717 motor vehicle accident fatalities for the state in 2011. In 2010, the total for the year was 760. While we’re always encouraged to see fewer Kentucky motor vehicle accident fatalities, unfortunately, the trend doesn’t seem to be carrying over into 2012.

  • I will bet that if the truth were to be known, a lot of the overdoses fall into the suicide category. These junkies are not taking joy rides for kicks here, they have pre-exsting deep seeded emotional problems. There is nothing recreational about shooting black tar heroin. There are probably more than 121 deaths a year from old people falling down the stairs in a state with 4.3 million residents. Tobacco kills 8,000 of our residents every year and we gloss over that all the time. Heroin is a real emotional button pusher and the police drag it out every few years and say, "Lookie here, heroin kills, and your kids are at risk, but we can remove that risk if you just give us some more of your Bill of Rights." Works every time with the yahoos around here.

  • Compare the number of deaths to, say, alcohol....I bet it's 5 times that number.

  • I am a strong proponent of treatment vs incarceration. A large number of overdoses occur when an addict is imprisoned for a short while and then takes his 'usual' dose when he gets out, not realizing his tolerance has dramatically decreased. Then there are those that just don't know when to stop. It's too bad addiction takes away your sense/concept of 'moderation'. You don't see this pattern with non-addicting drugs ie marijuana.