Pubdate: Wed, 13 Aug 2003
Source: State Journal-Register (IL)
Copyright: 2003 The State Journal-Register
Author: Larry A. Stevens
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)


Dear Editor,

Gov. Rod Blagojevich is to be commended for signing a law legalizing syringe
sales to the general public. It is both a pragmatic and a compassionate measure
that will help stem the spread of HIV/AIDS among intravenous drug users and
therefore everybody else.

Legal needles are a good example of what is known as harm reduction, an
approach to drug policy that seeks to lessen rather than increase the negative
impact of drugs.  The harm-reduction approach is spreading across the western
world.  In many ways, it represents a re-awakening of common sense.

Chicago-area author Stephen Young has called the old way of fighting drugs
"Maximizing Harm" in his concise and engaging book by that name.  Letting
HIV/AIDS do its deadly work on intravenous drug users by criminalizing syringes
is a perfect example of the harm-maximization approach.

Drug war orthodoxy holds that drugs can be priced out of peoples' lives by
making them more costly both in terms of money and negative impact --
maximizing the harm.  All the drug-related burglaries, stick-ups, and murders,
plus the overdoses, poisonings and infections, as well as the costly prison
boom are the results of this utterly failed strategy.

Thankfully, a brighter day is dawning in our approach to drugs.  Legal needles
are just the beginning.

Larry A. Stevens

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