Commentary: Clean Or Dirty Needles?

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, October 21, 2005

This whole sad story is about illegal drug users and the supervisors' desire to look tough on crime.

There are 45 states - count them, 45 - that allow an adult to walk into a pharmacy and buy a needle and a syringe without a prescription. Sometimes these adults are diabetics. And yes, sometimes they are users of illegal drugs who would rather shoot up with a clean needle. They know tht dirty needles increase their risk of getting infected with HIV or Hepatitis C.

So what is the real life impact of allowing a drug user to buy a clean needle? Study after study shows NO increase in illegal drug use and NO increase in the problems such as dirty needles in playgrounds. But there IS evidence of a reduction in deadly and very expensive diseases. Based on this evidence, the sale of clean needles is a no brainer.

But politics isn't about evidence. It's about perception, and that fear of looking soft on illegal drug use. So supervisors Don Nottoli, Roberta MacGlashan and Susan Peters voted against the sale of clean needles in Sacramento County.

I know, it IS hard to be sympathetic about a drug addict. But this is about saving taxpayer dollars and preserving human life. Thanks to these supervisors, Sacramento County will have too many dirty needles causing too much disease. Public health is taking a back seat to politics.