The April 2, 2008 New York Times delved into Northern New Mexico's heroin problem, primarily the use of Narcan and distribution of clean needles. New Mexico distributes Clean needles in a needle exchange program and also distributes nasal spray doses of Narcan which is a drug used to recover and prevent death during an overdose.
According to the article Needle exchanges and Narcan distribution are opposed by federal officials, who say they amount to endorsing addiction. Bertha K. Madras, a deputy director at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, has said that Narcan, the trade name for naloxone, should be administered only by medical professionals and that it could make addicts feel safer and less likely to seek care.
As I read the New York Times article this morning I couldn't help but think about this article which came out this morning in our local paper. While the contents of the article which chronicles the arrest of a man who traded heroin for the sister of an addicted man would shock many, it does not surprise me. Northern New Mexico which includes portions of Northern Santa Fe County is an entirely different world when it comes to drug addiction and death. I have seen grandparents, parents, children and great grandchildren all addicted to heroin in the same family. The family ties of addiction make arrests and undercover operations in these areas extremely hard. Because everyone is related, outsiders are not accepted and can not break into these family drug cartels. This makes law enforcement operations extremely hard in these areas.
I have often defended the drug war and exposed why I feel that legalizing drugs is a bad idea. However I do feel that we as a state and a nation are not spending enough for treatment centers, in particular long term treatment centers. I also feel Narcan is an effective life saving tool. I still have not made up my mind on needle exchange programs. On the one hand I do not want to do anything that promotes continued use of drugs however, I do realize that clean needles prevent the spread of diseases and save lives also.
This issue is not a quick fix issue. We will have to use many different tools in order to combat this problem. The costs to jail someone is as much if not more than treatment. The waiting lists for treatment is long however the jail always has room for one more. The one point I do often make is the fact that many of those who do receive any treatment at all are as a result of an arrest. You really don't find many people who seek out help on their own. Many may not want to believe it but when we arrest someone for drug crimes we would like nothing better than for that person to get help and become a productive member of society.
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