One major negative of drug prohibition is that it causes riskier ingestion methods. Prohibition raises drug prices, which encourages injection to get a big bang for the buck. Prohibition also fosters restrictions on clean syringes, which means users exchange dirty needles, increasing the transmission of HIV and other diseases.
Prohibition also increases overdoses, since potency is difficult to assess in a black market.
Hence the Church of Safe Injection:
Lewiston, Maine: On an 11-degree night here this month, an unconventional mass was held outdoors, next to a 2017 Honda parked on a street corner.
The altar took the form of the small car’s hatchback trunk. The not-so-typical communion: sterile needles, the overdose antidote naloxone, and the rubber tourniquets used prior to drug injection. For shooting and mixing heroin hygienically, alcohol swabs and sterile water. For the cold, hand warmers and socks, and for the hungry, granola bars.
At the center of it all was Jesse Harvey, 26, a Portland-area peer recovery coach who is the founder of the Church of Safe Injection.
The congregation lends structure to a rogue coalition of harm-reduction advocates who work to distribute thousands of syringes — possessing more than 10 is illegal in Maine — as well as hundreds of doses of naloxone. Members of the “church” don’t take that title lightly.
Such organizations are a small but sensible step toward reducing the harm from drug use. Better still, opiods would be legal, thereby reducing the incentive to inject or share needles and making it easier for users to determine potency.
Until then, however, safe needle exchanges and other harm reduction measures (like Methadone Maintenance) are steps in the right direction. Cato's Jeffrey Singer makes a compelling case for harm reduction here. And Cato will host a conference on harm reduction on March 21st in Washington, DC.