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  1. Spucky
    U District needle exchange gives out free crack pipes

    For more than 20 years, local heroin addicts have relied on a collection of needle exchanges for clean works. But in recent months, crack users too have quietly found an outlet in the city.

    In a nondescript alley in the University District, users can pick up clean crack pipes, pipe filters and ascorbic acid for injecting crack. Heroin users can also pick up a drug that reverses a heroin overdose -- an apparent first for a city needle exchange.

    "We take a different philosophy approach than most government institutions or public health departments. They have a budget, and have to pick and choose who they're going to help," said Shilo Murphy, executive director of the non-profit People's Harm Reduction Alliance, which runs the U-District needle exchange.

    "We say this is our community, this is our neighborhood, and we should decide what we have at the table."

    The exchange, which celebrated 20 years in the neighborhood this week, has come a long way from its roots -- when a man named Bob walked the Ave. and dispensed sterile needles from his backpack.
    These days, the largely volunteer-driven exchange, which serves 400 to 600 people a month, is better known for branching ahead of its peers in the harm reduction world.

    Public health officials know of no other local program that gives out crack kits or Naloxone, the heroin-overdose reversal drug. But they see the potential benefits.

    Just as sterile syringes reduce the spread of HIV and other diseases, new and unbroken glass pipes are believed to prevent lip cuts and the spread of hepatitis strains. Rubber tips and new filters ward off mouth burns. Ascorbic acid helps prevent users from using lemon juice to dissolve cocaine rocks into an injectable liquid -- a common practice that can lead to fungal infections.


    "Our program is primarily an HIV prevention program," said Michael Hanrahan, manager of education and prevention services of the HIV/STD program with Public Health -- Seattle & King County. The agency, which runs four exchange programs, has watched the demand for clean needles surge from 1.8 million in 2006 to nearly 3.4 million last year.
    Hanrahan said research has documented HIV transmission from dirty needles, but he wasn't aware of rigorous studies showing disease spread via crack sores.

    "But it's certainly theoretically plausible," he said.
    Last year, the Legislature passed a law allowing lay people to legally administer Naloxone, which counters the effects of an opioid overdose. Hanrahan said Public Health is interested in giving the drug to users, but because it is a prescription drug, the agency first needs to work on protocols with the state Board of Pharmacy.

    At the People's Harm Reduction Alliance - partially comprised of former users who run a table at Northeast 43rd Street and University Avenue Northeast - there is less need to follow protocols and studies.
    The program began giving out crack kits a few months ago, after staffers felt the need to support crack users, who still make up a major local drug trend, according to a recent University of Washington study.
    And the exchange began giving out Naloxone soon after the new law took effect in June.

    Murphy estimated his program gives out two million needles a year and 10 pipes a day. This month, it handed out 25 vials of Naloxone.
    "We don't have clients, we just have community members. I make it clear to everyone that everyone is family here," Murphy said.
    "We believe all drug users should have the right to not get diseases and have the ability to prevent diseases."

    Friday, August 6, 2010
    By VANESSA HO
    SEATTLEPI.COM STAFF

    source: http://www.seattlepi.com/local/424627_needleexchange05.html?source=mypi

Comments

  1. Rob Cypher
    How Seattle Needle Exchange Hopes Giving Away Meth Pipes Can Improve Public Safety

    Occasional crystal meth smoker Richard Russell ambles up to a church storage garage in a Seattle alley and a recovering drug addict hands him two brand new meth pipes, no questions asked.

    One of about two dozen methamphetamine users who received free bubble-ended pipes on a recent afternoon, Russell is a participant in a pioneering but illegal program launched in March that aims to indirectly curb infectious diseases.

    "Dude's got something to smoke but he doesn't have a pipe, what's he going to do?" Russell said later as he munched on a sandwich. "Panhandle, steal. Inject."

    The theory behind the handout program is that giving meth pipes to drug users may steer some away from needles, which are far riskier than smoking, especially if the user is sharing with another person infected with HIV or hepatitis C.

    There is little scientific evidence to support that claim, but The People's Harm Reduction Alliance, a privately funded needle-swap group run by drug users, said it has distributed more than 1,000 pipes in Seattle in a matter of weeks and could expand to other cities in Washington state and Oregon.

    Its program also draws addicts from society's fringes into its compassionate fold, with links to treatment and housing services, Executive Director Shilo Murphy said.

    Even though needle exchanges have faced continued opposition in many parts of the United States since the first legal one opened in Tacoma, Washington in 1988, the programs have been credited with reducing HIV infections and saving lives.

    But opponents say giving away meth pipes discourages quitting while wasting resources on an untested scheme that will not solve a city-wide health problem. They note that among methamphetamine-using gay men, HIV is transmitted primarily through unprotected sex, not syringe- or pipe-sharing.

    There are no studies to show meth users will resort to injections if pipes are unavailable, or that handing out pipes prevents needle use, said Matthew Golden, a Seattle and King County Disease Control Officer and a University of Washington professor of medicine.

    It is also hard to quantify how much the campaign might prevent death or infection, if at all, even if it does give meth users safer options than a needle or smoking out of a jerry-rigged light bulb, Golden said.

    "It is plausible the intervention could be effective," Golden said. "It's simply an unstudied idea."

    RADICAL PROGRAM

    But the Alliance, which says it is the nation's largest needle-exchange program by syringes dispersed, has pushed legal boundaries for years with user-conceived experiments unacceptable to its taxpayer-funded counterparts, Murphy said.

    It faced public outcry five years ago with a similarly illegal campaign to hand out crack pipes with extension tubes to prevent the hot glass from blistering addicts' lips, on the theory that disease could spread between pipe-sharers through open wounds, Murphy said. A similar program began in San Francisco last year.

    The Alliance launched its meth pipe program after learning from its own survey that 80 percent of area meth users would be less likely to inject drugs if given access to pipes.

    On a recent afternoon in an alley near the leafy University of Washington campus, dozens of drug users ambled up to a makeshift table to dump fistfuls of dirty syringes into biohazard bins and retrieve fresh boxes of needles, as well as meth pipes.

    Addicts, among them a transient man with a military-style backpack and two glassy-eyed college-age youths, also helped themselves to supplies like cookers, pushers and latex ties, as well as condoms and health pamphlets.

    "We don't see this as controversial. We see this as what's needed in our community," Murphy said.

    Giving out meth or crack pipes is illegal under state law, but the Seattle Police Department said it has taken no action to actively monitor or shutter the program.

    Anti-drug groups say needle exchanges make hard drug use appear acceptable and bring crime to communities, among other concerns.

    Phillip Wilson, 56, said the pipe programs were harming the community, adding that he planned to re-sell the glassware he got on the street for about $10.

    "Come on man, giving that shit away to people who are trying to quit? I just can't understand it," he said.

    Reuters
    May 14, 2015

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/14/feature-largest-us-need_n_7281884.html
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