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Editorial: Needle-exchange programs continue to be controversial

From The Herald-Dispatch of Huntington:  

Needle exchange programs like the ones in Cabell and Kanawha counties continue to be a source of controversy, as evidenced by readers’ response to an Aug. 29 article in The Herald-Dispatch. That story related how the leaders of the Cabell-Huntington and the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department said their programs were not responsible for the number of discarded syringes that are found in public places.

Both said the programs aren’t the problem, but that the high rate of addiction to opioids in the region is the cause. They defended their programs, saying they are intended to help stop the spread of disease from the reuse of syringes.

Here are some of the readers’ comments posted on the story on The Herald-Dispatch website:

“How can you honestly expect a person that’s getting high to be able to keep track of all the needles they use, especially if they’re shooting up in random places?” asked April Hackworth.

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“Why don’t we offer the monthly shot that keeps addicts from craving the drug?” said Erika Kelly Elswick. “It is already in Ohio. I spoke to an addict that was mandated by the court in Ohio to take it every 30 days; he said that it works amazing. Make a mobile unit and make it available for everyone.”

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“Because sadly enough some people don’t want to stop,” responded Mickey and Sarah Watson. “As crazy as it sounds, they WANT to keep getting high and don’t care what it is doing to other people. … the only thing that’s certain is the problem won’t stop until those in addiction hurt bad enough and have enough consequences to make them want to stop getting high.”

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“My issue with the needle problem is I understand not wanting to pass HIV, hepatitis, etc.; my problem is these addicts are so low in life, yes maybe thankful for clean needle, but they don’t care we are enabling addicts for another fix?” wrote Mandy Jenkins. “And they do not care to throw their needles in a park where children play … We are letting them take over. I think purchasing needles enables. …”

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“They do provide a red sharps container along with the needles they hand out,” responded Mickey and Sarah Watson. “When the person comes back the next week, they bring their used needles in the sharps container and are provided with new needles and a new container. However, needles are being found because they are not always (aware) of where each needle goes. There were needles found before the exchange program, and we will continue to find them …”

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“It is part of the overall problem …” commented Ben Hooser. “… It’s two things. 1: A society that no longer values consequences for illegal activities. We can’t keep murderers in jail, much less dealers, distributors, or users. It could be possible that incarceration might just save more of the users lives than any of these programs. 2: Enabling. First, families enable drug abuse until they have to cut off the user to survive. Then extended families do the same thing until they have to stop. Then the government steps in with ‘programs.’ Welfare, free housing, free needles, endless ‘rehabs.’ Never any consequences.”

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“The government’s answer to the rampant drug problem is to give addicts free needles, free drugs and a place to shoot up and eventually they will decide all on their own to stop using,” wrote John Brown. “Our country is doomed with the decision makers we have running the asylum.”

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“A simple and inexpensive solution to publicly discarded syringes is already at use in Europe,” commented Jeffrey Paczkowski. “Steel deposit receptacles similar to the big blue mail boxes placed in problem areas. Also it’s been proven in research conducted by prestigious bodies such as the Royal College of Physicians and the John Hopkins Lancet Commission of International Drug Policy that 90 percent of the harms from drug use stem from prohibition. … ”

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“I believe the OPPOSITE tack would help – make needle access VERY DIFFICULT. It CAN be done!” responded Phil Roby.

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