Drug Abuse

Its a common misconception among many people that the harm reduction approach
to drug use encourages drug use and is not effective. The harm reduction
approach maintains that drug abuse is here to stay and society needs to “accept
the responsible use” of psychoactive substances. The U.S. drug policy should
incorporate harm reduction for the benefits of heroin addicts.

For more than thirty years, methadone has been used effectively as treatment
for heroin addicts. (Zickler) Unfortunately, for every ten heroin addicts, there
are only one or two methadone slots (Torr, 39). Methadone treatment has been
shown to be beneficial for addicts. Those that are untreated die at a rate ten
times more than those in methadone treatment do, (Zweben, 20). Some people go
into treatment simply to reduce the frequency and amount of their use; other
patients make a full commitment to a lifestyle change, (Zweben, 2). The goal of
opioid maintenance therapy is to get rid of drug craving and create homoeostatic
stability making the person able to focus on lifestyle changes, (Zweben, 3).
Heroin use declines slowly once patients go in to treatment over a period of
time (Zweben, 3). Its been found that 67% of patients who are in the treatment
for six months are less continued to still do heroin while only 8% of long term
patients still used, (Zweben, 3). This is a significant difference. It is
estimated that there are 810,000 heroin addicts in the United States; only
138,000 to 170,000 people receive methadone or Levo- Alpha-Acetyl-Methadone as a
part of an addiction treatment program (none, 4). There is about 900 methadone
treatment programs, including programs approved for Levo- Alpha- Acetyl-
Methadone treatment in the United States (none, 4). Methadone therapy helps keep
over 100,000 addicts off heroin, welfare, and on tax rolls as productive
citizens, Without these programs, these people would be back on the welfare and
back on drugs, (none, 3). In licensed clinics, methadone is given orally and
effects generally last 24 to 36 hours, (Zickler, 6). Many clinics administer
fixed doses instead of adjusted doses according to the needs of the patients. (Zickler,
6) Methadone has a little of injected heroin’s effect on mood and cognition
when taken orally. (Torr, 62) Methadone is to street heroin what nicotine
patches is to cigarettes-with an addiction benefit of legality. (Torr, 64) Some
people feel that this is a problem because it encourages addicts. Doctor Strain
did a study involving 192 patients, investigating the effectiveness of high dose
methadone treatment. (Zickler, 2) Doses were increased weekly until the 8th week
which half were receiving a moderate dose and the other half a high dose. (Zickler,
2) Patients in the high does groups used opiates significantly during the
treatment then the moderate dose, reporting using once a week compared to the
moderate dose patients who used 2-3 times a week. (Zickler, 2) Doctor Strain
concluded that s high dose-80 to 100 mg per day- was more effective in the
reducing heroin use than a moderate dose of 40-50 mg per day. (Zickler, 2) “The
most important aspect if our research from a therapeutic and public health
perspective is that methadone treatment over broad range of doses results in
significant clinical improvement for opioid-addicted patients” he says. (Zickler,
3) Though only 10% are ever able to get off methadone treatment, this treatment
is proven to be entirely beneficial.

Another serious problem for heroin addicts is the spreading of viruses from
dirty needles. Thirty-three Americans are infected from dirty needles everyday.
(Fuller, 1) In fifty-five American cities, there are at least 75 needle give
away programs. (Torr, 36) The Dutch were the first to tell drug users the risks
involved in sharing needles and to collect sterile syringes available. (Torr, 3)
Addicts in some European cities are permitted to exchange used syringes for
clean ones at local police stations without fear of prosecution. It is estimated
by the Center for Disease Control that fifty percent of the new HIV infections
in the U.S. stem from injection drug use. (Torr, 37). Aids was leading killer of
Americans ages 25-44 for most of the nineties. It is now number 2 (Torr, 42).
This problem is continuously getting worse. Approximately 31 percent of Aids
cases documented in 1997 were caused by injection drug use compared to 1 percent
in 1981. (Fuller, 4). Though this idea has been proven to be a good idea and
maybe a safer approach. When first proposed, Americans voiced many concerns such
as discarded needles might be left where children can play with them. (Fuller,
3). Americans failure to allow needle exchanges has estimated to have resulted