Pubdate: Thu, 31 May 2001
Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Copyright: 2001 The Ottawa Citizen
Author: Phil Brown


Mark Kal ("Needle exchange does good, not harm," May 26) was right on 
target in his defence of the health department's needle-exchange program. 
However, your readers should also be made aware that used hypodermic 
syringes are no longer allowed in regular municipal garbage collection. 
Needle users, including type A diabetics and all others who take 
prescription medications intravenously, are required to return their used 
syringes to designated drop-off locations.

Typically, pharmacies accept used syringes since they are also a source of 
supply. In the Preston Street area, however, pressure from opponents of 
needle-exchange programs led to a situation where only one pharmacy has 
been accepting the return of used syringes. Thus, intravenous drug users in 
the area have been denied convenient depositories for their used syringes, 
regardless of whether they were used to inject heroin or insulin.

Needle exchanges not only distribute clean needles to help reduce the 
spread of infectious diseases, they also help protect the general public by 
providing a place for users to return used syringes.

As your newspaper has argued, the problems associated with illegal drug use 
would best be addressed by replacing the losing "war on drugs" with 
policies of decriminalization and regulation. Such a step would promote 
treatment of addicts while ending the black market in which criminal 
organizations enrich themselves by promoting illegal drug use.

Drug addiction is a social problem that is not going to be stopped by 
making it difficult for people to obtain or discard syringes. This 
simplistic response to a complex social problem will mean that more 
syringes are discarded improperly, that addicts will not be encouraged to 
seek treatment, and that prescription intravenous drug users will continue 
to face unreasonable obstacles to maintaining their health.

People truly concerned about the dangers of discarded needles in public 
places should be helping ensure there are lots of convenient drop-off 
points for used syringes, rather than attacking a needle-exchange program 
that helps stop the spread of dangerous diseases like HIV and hepatitis and 
is often the first step in encouraging drug addicts to seek treatment.

Phil Brown,

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