Guide Could Create Heroin Addicts

In past blog entries on our sister facility’s blog, we’ve discussed the devastating comeback heroin has made due to the political climate in Afghanistan and the phenomenon of OxyContin addiction leading to heroin overdose.

A pamphlet that was published in 2007 and distributed in New York has recently been the subject of controversy. The 16-page brochure, titled “Take Charge, Take Care: 10 Tips for Safer Use” includes tips on how to “safely” use heroin, including preparation of the drug, tips on locating veins, and how to find treatment. The purpose of the pamphlet is to help reduce harm caused by heroin usage until a person can properly find treatment, but some feel that it is more of a “how-to” guide to new drug users and serves no real positive benefit.

Creation, Purpose, and Content of the Guide

The pamphlet was created by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Its statement regarding the purpose of the pamphlet is: “to help people who are injecting drugs reduce the harm associated with this type of drug use until they are able to get into treatment and recover.” They have printed around 70,000 of the pamphlets for $32,000 of tax payer money. The Health Department cites accidental overdose as a major problem, killing 600 users a year and is the fourth leading cause of early adult death in New York City. Their hope is that information from the guide would be used to save lives.

Some of the topics in the brochure include:

  • “How to prevent overdose”
  • “Prepare drugs carefully”
  • “Take care of your veins”
  • “Ask for help to stop using”

Contained in each tip are ideas and suggestions to minimize problems when using heroin, including:

  • “Use with someone else. If you’re alone and something goes wrong, no one can help.”
  • “Use a new syringe, cooker, cotton, tie, and other supplies every time.”
  •  “Warm your body (jump up and down) to show your veins.”
  • “Find the vein before you try to inject.”

Criticism of Pamphlet

Some who disagree with the principles of the pamphlet feel it goes too far in its advice and actually provides information to new users on how to experiment with the drug for the first time. They think that for those already addicted and using regularly, the guide serves no purpose. It is more of a “how-to” guide and could be sending a message that truly safe use of heroin is possible.

The use of “safely” in the pamphlet is troubling, as it gives the wrong impression to all users. Guides on how to use any dangerous drug might make people think that there is a “right” way to abuse without taking on the risks and hazards. Critics are calling for the pamphlet to be discontinued and taken off the streets.

However, the Health Department countered by noting the effectiveness of the guide. After it was released, there was a reduction (80%) of HIV reported by new drug users in the city and that death due to overdose decreased by one-fourth (200 fewer deaths) from 2006 to 2008.

No Truly “Safe” Way to Use Heroin

No matter how you use it, heroin is one of the most addictive drugs around. There really is no safe way to inject it. The chance of overdose is high and you put yourself at risk each time you use it. The chance of receiving and using impure or “laced” heroin is something that no guide can help save you from. If you have an addiction or dependency on heroin, get treatment today. We can help. Call now to have your questions answered and concerns addressed.

Read more about heroin addiction.

Recovering from substance use disorders is a challenging journey that feels more doable in an environment that tends to each individual’s complex needs and strengths. Our goal is to foster a treatment experience that is built on compassion, hope, and caring, and fueled by excellence in the provision of evidence-based and trauma-informed care.

– - Anonymous