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Atlanta Drug Program Last of Its Kind

There’s a tough to read piece at the Creative Loafing Atlanta site. Tough to read, but worthwhile. The piece, by Rodney Carmichael (with help from Thomas Wheatley and Jim Burress), tells about the only remaining needle exchange program in Georgia, and the consequences of not properly funding such programs.

The Atlanta Harm Reduction Coalition acts to reduce the damage drugs do to addicts by providing not only clean needles, but also supplies to prevent infections and the spread of AIDS. The human misery on display in the article is palpable, but there’s nothing like a clear picture of the facts to understand the need for such programs.

Because the program distributes “drug paraphernalia,” including clean syringes, it is technically in violation of Georgia state law. However, the people we meet through Carmichael’s writing make it seem silly to deny this simple outreach. Critics may argue that free needles and other “goodies” only promote drug use, but these city residents are past such arguments. They aren’t going to stop using because they can’t get a needle that won’t tear up their flesh and make an infection more likely.

An important point emerges. For those addicts that are ready for help, the program offers a contact point with a saner world. The folks who deliver the supplies are trusted members of the community, even if they aren’t drug users themselves. By showing up, and then showing up again, a bond is formed. That gives a bridge between the treatment world and those most in need of treatment. But there’s a mutual respect as well. No one will be arrested or forced to give up their freedom. The offer is there when it’s needed – and that’s huge.

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