Is this the epitome of tax dollar waste or an attempt to stop the dangerous sharing of needles? New York City spent $32,000 to produce and distribute pamphlets that explain the best way to shoot heroin. Anti-drug officials are outraged, while the Health Department is defending its actions.
"It's basically step-by-step instruction on how to inject a poison," John Gilbride, who heads the Drug Enforcement Administration's New York office, told the New York Post.
The city distributed 70,000 copies of the 16-page guidebook, called "Take Charge, Take Care" to addicts and people at risk of becoming heroin users. It gives detailed instructions of how to prepare the drug, and how to shoot it. Tips include:
-- Warm your body (jump up and down) to show your veins.
-- Find the vein before you try to inject. Tie off to make your veins visible.
-- Don't "dig" for veins. If you don't "register," pull out and try again.
"It concerns me that the city would produce a how-to on using drugs," Gilbride said. "Heroin is extremely potent. You may only get the chance to use it once. To suggest there is a method of using that alleviates the dangers, that's very disturbing."
But the Health Department says the pamphlet is not simply a how-to guide. It says it stresses the importance of kicking the habit, seeking professional help and not sharing needles.
"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.
Asked why the handout tells people how to shoot up, Heller said, "From a health perspective, there is a less harmful way to inject yourself."
But New York City drug czar Bridget Brennan says while it does have some useful information, the pamphlet still sends the wrong message.
"What we do not want to do is suggest that there's anything safe about shooting up narcotics," said Brennan. "No matter how many times you wash your hands or how clean the needle is, it's still poison that you're putting in your veins."
Peter Vallone, Jr., who chairs the City Council's public safety committee, vowed to shut down the distribution of the pamphlet.
"This is a tremendous misuse of city funds, and I'm going to see what I can do to stop it. It sends a message to our youth: give it a try," he fumed.