Here’s a provocative anti drug war manifesto from the Drug Policy Alliance, the most prominent harm reduction advocacy and drug decriminalization group in the U.S. There’s a lot to agree with. Unfortunately, they resort to an advesarial with us/against us approach, for example: “People who prohibit clean syringes to reduce the spread of HIV have blood on their hands.”
Would it helpful to say that needle exchange advocates who do little to promote treatment and recovery have blood on their hands due to overdoses and drug related crimes? Our support/opposition to needle exchanges is conditional. Just like treatment programs, there are good ones and bad ones. And, there are contexts in which they make a lot of sense and contexts where other needs should be considered first.
And then there’s this:
6. Smoking five cigarettes is better than smoking 20. Using marijuana is better than using heroin. Many well-intentioned people think drugs are terrible and abstinence is always the answer…. Some people who have struggled with heroin have been able to quit heroin, but still use marijuana. Our criminal justice system and many in the abstinence-only treatment world would view this as a failure and send the marijuana smoker to jail. I say congrats on giving up heroin. Keep it up.
Is reduced tobacco use a good thing? Sure, especially knowing that people who cut down are more like to eventually quit. But, continued use is still harmful.
Is marijuana less harmful/dangerous than heroin? Sure. (However, people focus far too much on the drug when, in the case of addiction, the problem is in the brain of the user.) Are there people out there who have switched from heroin to marijuana? I don’t doubt it. However, they’re the exception to the rule, so why focus on that particular anecdote?
Gradualism is a concept we can support, but we know the pain and misery caused by addiction – and we know that full recovery is possible when communities provide addicts the support that they need to recover.
I guess we get a pretty clear sense of their values related to drug policy, recreational drug use, and HIV. Unfortunately, I don’t get a sense of their values related to addiction and recovery. It makes it hard to believe that they care much about addicts.