Needle exchanges help curb drug crisis
This letter is in regards to Tom Jankovsky’s comments that “syringe exchange doesn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy,” and “we’re enabling drug users.” (April 5, Glenwood Springs Post Independent,).
I would urge Tom to do some research on the issue. Needle exchange doesn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy either, but plenty of studies are available that show it is an effective way to handle some of the problems associated with drug abuse.
Switzerland, a country known for its conservatism, confronted this issue head on in the 1990s with a very pragmatic approach, which they call their Four Pillars Policy. Needle-exchange programs, legalized drug consumption rooms, heroin-assisted treatment facilities, granted all controversial measures, have statistically proven to be successful. Opioid-related deaths dropped by 50%, HIV infections, hepatitis C cases, both dropped significantly. Property crime by drug users was reduced by 90%.
When a referendum was held in 1997 challenging the Four Pillars Policy, it was supported by 70% of the citizenry and continues to be supported to this day. Again, this is Switzerland; they didn’t give women the right to vote until 1971 so we’re not talking a bastion of liberalism here. A report, written by Joanne Csete from the Columbia University Mailman School Of Public Health titled From The Mountaintops: What The World Can Learn From Drug Policy Change In Switzerland, can be downloaded for free from the Open Society Foundations web page. (www.opensocietyfoundations.org). It explains in detail the innovative rational approach the Swiss took, well worth the read for anyone concerned with the issue of drug abuse in our society.
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