New York City’s top narcotics prosecutor says a Health Department pamphlet that teaches heroin addicts how to shoot up safely is wrongheaded because there is no safe way to inject heroin.
Bridget Brennan said the pamphlet, entitled ‘Take Charge, Take Care’, sends the wrong message because she believes it normalises intravenous drug use.
Ms Brennan says there is a glut of heroin on the market right now, and heroin use is increasing among young people.
On Monday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended the handbook because, he said, while no one should use hard drugs, the city has an obligation to diminish the risks for those who do.
“It’s certainly not in the interest of society to have you get HIV/AIDS,” he said.
The pamphlet is being criticised as a heroin “how-to,” as the 16-page booklet features seven comics-like illustrations and offers dope fiends such useful advice as “Warm your body (jump up and down) to show your veins,” and “Find the vein before you try to inject.”
It even encourages addicts to keep jabbing if their needles miss the mark. “If you don’t ‘register,’ pull out and try again,” it says.
The New York Health Department distributed 70,000 of the pamphlets citywide, at a cost to tax payers of US$32,000.
“It’s basically step-by- step instruction on how to inject a poison,” said John Gilbride, who heads the Drug Enforcement Administration’s New York office.
The Health Department defended its brochure, saying it was helpful and necessary, and has been distributed only to addicts or those at risk of becoming abusers.
“Our goal is to promote health and save lives with this information,” said Daliah Heller, assistant commissioner for the Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Use Prevention, Care and Treatment.