Imagine finding out a member of your family or a close friend
is shooting drugs. What do you do about it? Do you give him
a clean needle? Or do you try to get him into a drug
treatment program? Of course, any sensible person is going
to try to convince that friend or family member to get off
drugs. That would be the right thing to do -- the responsible
thing to do. So, why should the government respond any
Nevertheless, powerful forces -- both inside and outside of
government -- are backing wider use of needle exchange
programs. The latest institution to weigh in is the American
Bar Association, which voted this week to support the
removal of all legal barriers to the establishment and
operation of needle-exchange programs. In June, U.S.
mayors called for the federal government to cough up more
money for the idea. There are at least three reasons to
oppose federal funding of needle exchange programs:
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- Legal: Nowhere in the U.S. Constitution is the federal
government empowered to spend money on such notions,
and the Congress has specifically voted to ban such funding.
- Moral: This idea is another example of the way some
people in our society are, as Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan
would say, "defining deviancy down" -- saying, in effect, it's
OK to abuse drugs as long as you use clean needles.
- It simply doesn't work: According to both the politically
correct Centers for Disease Control and the National
Research Council, there is simply no empirical evidence to
suggest that lives will be saved through needle exchanges. In
fact, there is every reason to believe more people will die
because of such policies.
So why all the clamor for this new cause du jour? It comes
down to the worst kind of political pandering to a tiny
special-interest group. Sure, everyone can feel better about
themselves for allocating taxpayer dollars to needle
exchanges, but, ultimately, it's nothing more than misguided,
phony compassion. There's nothing caring about swapping
needles. It's another example of symbolism over substance.
But it's even worse than that.
This idea is the natural extension of the condom distribution
scam. The same activist groups promoting needle exchanges
continue to insist condom giveaways are the best way to
safeguard people from contracting AIDS sexually. In both
cases, however, we are not treating the root problem --
namely, irresponsible behavior. In fact, we're condoning it.
Just as anal sex, with or without a condom, is risky and
potentially deadly, so is drug abuse -- with or without clean
How can we justify taking even one dollar away from
research into finding a cure for AIDS and spending it on such
reckless fantasies? Let's face it. In this age of deficit spending,
there's a limited pool of federal money available for all
health issues. If some local governments in New York and
San Francisco want to experiment with wacky ideas, God
bless them. But let's not force the rest of us to subsidize their
Kevorkian- style madness.
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The needle-exchange lunacy is evidence that our society is
losing, not only its moral center of gravity, but its ability to
reason -- to think logically and respond rationally to
political, social and medical problems.
Let me give you an analogy: You see a guy playing Russian
roulette with two bullets in the chamber. One bullet, in this
case, represents the imminent death a drug user faces from
organ failure or accidental overdose and the other
represents the dangers of contracting AIDS. This policy is the
legal, moral and practical equivalent of, upon finding such a
person, removing one of the bullets from the gun, giving it
back to him and saying, "OK, continue your game."
Is there any individual -- let alone society -- who wants that
on their conscience? Not me.