Drug War

Republicans Restore Ban on Needle Exchange Funding

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In my October review of President Obama's drug policies, I noted that he supported lifting the ban on the use of federal funds for needle exchange programs…until his first budget proposal, which kept the ban in place. The Democrat-controlled Congress removed it anyway, but now Republicans are restoring it as part of their end-of-the-year spending package. "The federal syringe funding ban was costly in both human and fiscal terms," says Bill Piper, director of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance. "It is outrageous that Congress is restoring it given how overwhelming and clear the science is in support of making sterile syringes widely available. Make no mistake about it—members of Congress who supported this ban have put the lives of their constituents in jeopardy."

While using taxpayers' money to buy needles for heroin addicts seems like a policy designed to make conservatives' heads explode, there is substantial evidence that such programs reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, and other blood-borne diseases. Among progressives, federal funding for needle exchange is a hallmark of the humane, science-driven drug policy they hoped Obama would deliver. Libertarians are apt to have more reservations about subsidizing drug-injecting equipment (as opposed to removing legal barriers to buying, possessing, and distributing it).But if the federal government is going to spend money fighting AIDS, it should do so as cost-effectively as possible, unhampered by moralistic dictates.

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  1. I recently found out I’m diabetic. Walmart didn’t ask for any sort of medical documentation when I bought a whole big box of insulin syringes. Are they no good for heroin or something, because they’re certainly cheap enough at ~$0.12 each.

    1. Insulin syringes have super-fine needles, and are used for intramuscular injections (I think – Suge, can you give us the skinny?). Not sure they would work for intravenous injections of something you cooked up in spoon.

      1. So what you’re saying is, junkies are nowhere near as innovative as stoners?

      2. Subcutaneous, but yes, you are right. The needles are not really wide-enough bore to work for vein-injectables.

        I’ve been told the issue is not injecting so much as not being able to draw blood into the syringe so as to cool down the heroin before injecting. (A practice that makes needle-sharing so dangerous.)

        1. See, I knew SugarFree would know.

          I’ve been told the issue is . . .

          Suuuure you have.

        2. Cool down the heroin? Ridiculous. The reason you draw back is the same reason I was taught to in med school — to make sure your needle is actually in the vein.

    2. a short bit that I heard from an ex-junkie friend of mine. The first time he injected, he used a diabetic needle he stole from his grandmother’s house. Of course he didn’t mainline, but pinched the skin on his thigh and shot it that way.

      Later on, he taught himself how to do it in the vein, but I never asked him what type of needle he used.

      Needless to say, he has some interesting stories of living (and surviving) years of being an addict.

  2. well thank the heavens the republic is safe now !

  3. Well, if those congress critters believe that their constituents who choose to use drugs need to be removed from society through either incarceration or death, which has been the official view of the feds as long as I’ve been alive, then it’s a perfectly rational decision. If that is your worldview (and I’m looking at you, Republicans and Democrats), why on earth would you want to make things safer for people who make choices that indicate that they are unfit to live in our country?

  4. Hey, I’ve got an idea, why doesn’t some non-state actor start a charity that buys the needles and distributes them directly. Why does this have to come from the Federal tit? If we won’t cut the programs we like, we can’t cut the programs someone else does either.

    1. Wouldn’t a private party get charged with distributing drug paraphenalia like Tommy Chong?

      1. maybe in Brett’s hypothetical the WoSD is one of the programs that has been cut?

      2. Ah yes. We could get rid of that law, too.

  5. Republicans also want you to pee in a cup to receive unemployment benefits.

    Weird how free market ideology and Puritanical moralizing always go hand-in-hand.

    1. Aside from the Pauls, could you give us a couple of names of Republicans who have this “free market ideology”?

      Because all I see is corpocratic kleptocracy.

      1. What’s the difference in practice?

        By “in practice” I mean what you feel in your heart doesn’t mean shit.

        1. In practice? A free market is not burdened with rent-seeking aided and abetted by jackbooted government agents.

          Unlike a corpocratic kleptocracy.

          See how this works? I realize you don’t have any principled objections to corpokleptocrats, as long as they are from the right team, but you should at least know the difference.

    2. “Weird how free market ideology and Puritanical moralizing always go hand-in-hand.”

      You have been coming here for years. You know that is not true.

  6. Needle exchanges are about as clear an example as you’ll get of “fucked up government solution to a government-created problem”.

    1. Dead on. Just sell the needles openly and the problem mostly takes care of itself. Anyone still sharing dirty needles when they can be bought legally, off-script and cheaply, only has themselves to blame.

      Not even the powers of the free market can overcome human stupidity.

      1. Have you checked? Now every state but NJ allows syringe & needle sales OTC, and NJ may repeal their prescription requirement soon. I’ve got to agree with banning tax funding of needle exchange programs now. I was in favor of them when needle users couldn’t get their works legally otherwise, but now, no way. Plus, heroin by snorting & smoking is more popular now.

        Circumstances have changed, time to change position on this issue.

  7. The government subsidizes the hobbies of those damn smartypantses (e.g.; museum, opera, library), so why not subsidize my hobby?

  8. Good news for once! I don’t care about substantial evidence or whether it’s more cost effective than other programs, the federal government has no business funding needle exchanges.

  9. While using taxpayers’ money to buy needles for heroin addicts seems like a policy designed to make conservatives’ heads explode, there is substantial evidence that such programs reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, and other blood-borne diseases.

    I simply do not give a fuck. Yay, my tax dollars at work helping retards safely get high. Uh, no fucking thank you. If you are dumb enough to take a questionable needle and shove it into your vein, you deserve whatever the fuck you get.

    If dudes could just walk into the corner store and buy their smack and the shit they needed to shoot it, we wouldn’t have this fucking problem.

    1. “…there is substantial evidence that such programs reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, and other blood-borne diseases…”

      Ergo the government knows better how to spend your money than you do. We just need nice little utilitarian arguments like this one.

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  11. Check out http://www.directlinemedical.com for cheap medical supplies and get 5% off total purchase with coupon code 5PEROFF.

  12. I’m glad to see that the authors at Reason have finally found a government bloat project that they can appreciate.

    Have I accidentally stumbled on HuffPo?

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