NYC prosecutor blasts 'heroin how-to' pamphlet
New York City’s top narcotics prosecutor says a Health Department pamphlet that teaches heroin addicts how to shoot up safely is wrongheaded because there is no safe way to inject heroin.
Bridget Brennan said Tuesday that the pamphlet sends the wrong message. She believes it normalizes intravenous drug use.
Brennan says there is a glut of heroin on the market right now, and heroin use is increasing among young people.
Yesterday, Mayor Bloomberg defended the handbook because, he said, while no one should use hard drugs, the city has an obligation to diminish the risks for those who do.
"It's certainly not in the interest of society to have you get HIV/AIDS," he said.
The pamphlet is being criticized as a heroin "how-to," as the 16-page booklet features seven comics-like illustrations and offers dope fiends such useful advice as "Warm your body (jump up and down) to show your veins," and "Find the vein before you try to inject."
It even encourages addicts to keep jabbing if their needles miss the mark.
"If you don't 'register,' pull out and try again," it says.
DEA rips NYC-funded handbook on heroin
‘Step-by-step instruction on how to inject a poison,’ drug agent says
NEW YORK - A New York City-funded guidebook for heroin users offers information on how to prepare drugs carefully and care for veins to avoid infection.
However, the state's top official with the Drug Enforcement Administration said the "Take Charge Take Care" guide was disturbing.
DEA special agent-in-charge John Gilbride said the handout was a "step-by-step instruction on how to inject a poison."
The city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene printed about 70,000 copies and a top official says the goal is to promote health and save lives.
The 16-page pamphlet features helpful tips for drug users such as: "Warm your body (jump up and down) to show your veins," and "find your vein before you try to inject."
Other tips include: "Only 'boot' once or twice in one shot."
Assistant Commissioner Daliah Heller said instructions on how to perform injections were included because there's "a less harmful way to inject."
The illustrated guidebook also offers information on HIV testing and warnings on the dangers of sharing needles.
Public Officials Attack City’s Heroin Pamphlet
If you’re going to do drugs, do it right, because even drug addicts deserve to have their lives protected.
That’s the message New York City health officials say they were trying to convey in a city-funded and distributed pamphlet on “tips for safer use” of heroin that has raised the hackles of public officials, including the city’s special narcotics prosecutor, over the last few days.
City health officials say the 17-page brochure, which has been in circulation since June 2007, simply recognizes that, realistically, it is impossible to stop every intravenous drug user from using drugs. It offers “10 Tips for Safer Use” of heroin, like: shoot up with someone else, in case something goes wrong, and “shoot correctly to avoid infection and collapsed veins.”
But skeptics, including City Councilman Peter F. Vallone Jr., a Queens Democrat, and Bridget G. Brennan, New York City’s special narcotics prosecutor, say the brochure is a how-to manual for beginning drug users, which — through tips like “warm up your body (jump up and down) to show your veins” — makes drug use seem normal. They said it was misguided public policy and called on the city to withdraw it.
Mr. Vallone, chairman of the council’s public safety committee, said Tuesday that the pamphlet, whose existence was reported in The New York Post on Sunday, offered little of value to experienced users, and could encourage novices to take up heroin use by showing them how to do it.
“You’re spending taxpayer money and getting a how-to guide for first-time users,” he said. The city has spent about $32,000 to print and distribute 70,000 copies of the flyer, health officials said.
Ms. Brennan said Tuesday that she saw a legitimate public purpose in other policies directed at intravenous drug users, like needle exchanges to prevent drug users from spreading H.I.V. and other infections through contaminated needles. But she said that telling drug users to do things like wash their hands was “silly.”
“I think needle exchange, if it’s managed well and it’s targeted and it’s thoughtfully administered, I think that makes a lot of sense, but this doesn’t fall into that category,” Ms. Brennan said.
She said that the brochure suggested there was a safe way to inject heroin. “Anytime you intravenously inject drugs you’re taking your life into your hands, no matter how many times you wash your hands or use alcohol,” Ms. Brennan said. “It’s a poison. And you don’t know what the drug is cut with. When I looked at the brochure, it suggested a normalization.”
Mr. Vallone said he did not blame the city’s health commissioner, Dr. Thomas Farley, for the pamphlet, which was first distributed long before Dr. Farley took office last June, but he said he planned to meet with the commissioner on Wednesday, and would ask him to withdraw
Mr. Vallone objected to safety tips like “Drop the cotton directly into the cooker. Don’t touch it!” To him, he said, that sounded like, “You’re going to prevent them from getting a boo-boo.”
He also cited the tip about jumping up and down. “That’s a helpful hint, not advice to prevent any disease,” Mr. Vallone said.
But health officials adamantly denied that the pamphlet could be construed as a how-to manual.
“Absolutely not,” Dr. Adam Karpati, executive deputy commissioner for the health department’s division of mental hygiene, said Tuesday.
Tips like the one about warming up veins, he said, were to protect users from repeated injections, which could lead to skin-borne infections like skin abscesses, bloodstream infections and heart infections.
City health officials said the brochure was aimed at making intravenous drug use “safer,” not “safe,” and noted that the first page of the brochure urges users to “get help and support to stop using drugs,” and offers 24-hour hotline numbers for them to call. He said the city was trying to prevent overdoses and health risks, like H.I.V. and hepatitis, from dirty needles.
More than 600 New Yorkers die of accidental drug overdoses every year, and one third of people with H.I.V. in the United States were infected through intravenous drug use, the health department said.
“Our primary message, as it is in all our initiatives, is to help people stop using drugs and to provide them with information on how to quit,” Dr. Karpati said. But he said that health officials recognized that quitting was not a realistic expectation for all drug users.
I listed to this on Sean Hannity while a friend drove me to the drs. I figured there was a bit more to the story than the New York Post said, and there was. There was also some stuff about wasting tax money but those seemed more like blogs, from what I found.