Take Charge Take Care: My Views On NYC’s Heroin How To Guide
If you live in the city or you watch the national news, you’ve heard about our Department of Health’s new pamphlet that came out about Heroin last week. It’s a sixteen page disease-awareness/ prevention guide or manual on heroin for heroin users. When I first heard about this on CNN over the weekend, I didn’t understand what all the hooplah was about and I really didn’t care much. Our mayor along with the Department of Health are always doing radical things that get national attention-sometimes wise, sometimes overreaching, sometimes a little nonsensical. For example: You can’t smoke in bars anymore, but you can get free condoms there, thank the mayor. In the winter, we might arrest a bum for not accepting warm shelter, last summer we were giving out bus tickets for them to leave the city. Once again, thanks, mayor.
I really didn’t see what all the fuss about with spreading the word about how to keep yourself safe when engaging in high-risk behavior. Isn’t that what Departments Of Health are supposed to do, they warned us about bed bugs and swine flu also, right? I had to find out for myself what the big deal was, so I managed to find the PDF version on the web (you won’t find it though, the linksite mysteriously vanished Tuesday morning.) In regards to bed bugs and swine flu: This Pamphlet Is Not The Same. Well, firstly people don’t outwardly seek bed bugs and H1N1, heroin use is a choice (at least it is that first time.) This flier gives you a play-by-play on how to shoot-up, from acquiring to disposing of needles, with street vernacular and everything: “only boot once or twice in one shoot…” I don’t even know what that means, it kind of makes me think there was a city official in a suit in tie on the block asking ‘Pookie’ for slang terms while he did the dope-lean in front of the bodega on Delancey and Ludlow.
People can compare this type of government intervention to sex education pamphlets or condom distribution, but I think they went a little farther than that. I’m all for giving junkies clean needles and methadone, but we don’t need to give them tips on the best way to find a vein. Career abusers already know how to shoot up, anyway. It’s like seeing a Sex Ed./Karma Sutra handbook in your high school guidance counselor’s office. This would be its druggie comparison… It’s a handbook for newbies, the 16 to 25 year olds that are trying heroin for the first time at these new and alarming rates. There’s just something a little too chic about the message’s delivery, it doesn’t read in a ‘afterschool special’ “DRUGS ARE BAD” tone, it feels more like a ‘how to.’ As if someone, more experienced ‘in-the-life’ was giving you pointers on how the stay safe when you speedball… There’s something good about that though, maybe those kids shooting H who are too young to remember the This Is Your Brain On Drugs commercials, can get some help from this. The rationale is that even if one life is saved, it’s a success, that is understandable. There should be a commercial that goes with this campaign. I can see it now, the scene is a school bathroom, we can see a girl’s shoes and stockings from under the doors of the stalls. She’s fumbling and muttering, “shoot,” the school bells ring startling her making her drop some of her things on the floor: a baggy, a hyperdermic needle and the Take Charge… pamphlet. As she reaches for the floor, the screen freezes its frame on the pamphlet cover and a voice over says, “If You’re Doing It, Do It Right?”
I think that really is the message, if you’re doing, do it right. Sure, doing it right probably will maximize the user’s high, but the information is genuine and will also minimize the risk of death. There’s too much risk associated with heroin use for our city to not get involved, 600 people died in 2008 due to accidental death associated with drugs, that’s about one-quarter of the city’s accidental deaths. This is not even counting the people that contract Hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS because of their use. It’s a fact that there is no higher risk activity out there if you compare it to sex and other drugs. Heroin is extremely addictive, it ruins lives and there’s no other drug where there’s a constant risk of HIV-exposure and death at the every hit. Municipalities do need to get involved. Junkies are a fringe in our society, but they need some outreach, especially since they can pose a health risk to the community at-large. (As I write this, there’s a guy nodding-out across from me on this 6 train.) We already know people are going to use what they want, they should do it safely. This type of government aide was needed in the 70s when all of the returning Vietnam War veterans came back home strung out.
Someone’s going to use the ‘slippery slope’ argument and say, “what’s next are we going to supply the drugs for them and make it legal…” That’s a talking point used to in a drug debate to cloud the issue-at-hand. Drugs this harmful should have some kind of regulating, but legalization, I really don’t know. I did think though, what were the Health Department going to suggest next? The best type of water to mix you drugs in. They’re really walking a fine line with these ‘tips’, the first one encourages you to do drugs with other people and helps you with dosing suggestions. I almost expected them to give ingestion suggestions: Snorting heroin is safer than injecting it intravenously, though the effects isn’t as instant.