------------------------------------------------------------------- SF Official Calls For Easing Curbs On Methadone Date: Fri, 26 Dec 1997 12:57:01 EST From: "Tom O'Connell"
To: Multiple recipients of list Subject: ART: SF Chronicle, 12/26/97 San Francisco can be so progressive that it's sometimes hard to remember that it's part of the US: Friday, December 26, 1997 Page A23 (c)1997 San Francisco Chronicle S.F. Official Calls For Easing Curbs On Methadone Help sought for heroin addicts Yumi Wilson, Chronicle Staff Writer SAN FRANCISCO Contending that efforts to halt drugs at the border or to ``Just Say No'' have failed, San Francisco Supervisor Gavin Newsom says it is time to treat heroin abuse less as a crime and more like a medical problem. Newsom is asking the board to seek a federal waiver that would ease restrictions and allow private doctors ``full discretion'' to prescribe methadone, a synthetic drug that blunts the craving for heroin. Currently, only state-licensed and federally approved clinics can distribute the drug, which means there are long waiting lists in most places. Such waivers have been issued only in New York City, Connecticut and Baltimore -- which has the highest rate of heroin-related emergency room visits in the nation. The board's Family, Health and Environment Committee is expected to hear the matter next month. Meanwhile, Newsom is asking for public input at a town hall meeting on January 24 at the Potrero Hill Neighborhood House. The waiver is badly needed here, Newsom believes, because San Francisco ranks third nationally for heroin-related emergency room visits. Also the number of deaths from heroin overdose has increased by 17 percent from 1992 to 1995. ``Our statistics show (that) the drug policy has been a failure,'' he said. ``It's incumbent upon us to take a totally different approach and start looking at the problem as a medical one.'' Although there is wide agreement that the local heroin problem is getting out of control, there are still questions about Newsom's approach. Critics say methadone does nothing to eliminate drug dependency. They contend that such treatment coddles people who engage in criminal behavior, citing studies claiming that many addicts revert to heroin after they run out of methadone. ``We still allow the person to keep the addictive mentality,'' said the Rev. Arnold G. Townsend, a recovering drug addict who uses the Bible to teach others how to break the habit. ``So the problem will never be solved because if they can't get methadone, they'll go back to another drug.'' Newsom acknowledges that methadone isn't the perfect solution. But he believes that the city needs every weapon possible to combat all forms of drug abuse that last year cost the city $1.7 billion dollars in emergency room visits, treatment and incarceration. The Department of Public Health favors the waiver, particularly in light of the city's past, less punitive approaches to drug abuse. In fact, the city has already declared a state of emergency so it could hand out millions of hypodermic needles to drug addicts each year. And for several years, the city has allowed cannabis clubs to serve marijuana to the sick and dying. In addition to the growing number of public health officials who support methadone use, the White House also is urging for more physician control of dosing and distribution of the drug. And a committee at the National Institutes of Health concluded in November that heroin is a medical problem that can be treated effectively with methadone. ``Only very few people seriously question methadone maintenance as the No. 1 response to heroin addiction,'' said Jim Stillwell of the city's Health Department, working to increase treatment options to the needy. ``Most studies say it should be the primary response.'' The biggest problem, however, remains the lack of methadone for most heroin addicts. According to epidemiologist John Newmeyer, there are roughly 8,000 to 12,000 heroin users in San Francisco. But city health officials say only 1,500 have a slot in nonprofit methadone clinics. Another 100 or so are in another, short-term heroin detoxification program. The waiver would make it easier for more people to get methadone, said Newmeyer, who works at the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic, where heroin addicts do not get methadone. ``Any kind of treatment -- our kind, methadone, therapy, community -- we need more of it,'' Newmeyer said. ``This waiver is cost-effective. The city would reap the benefits.'' For example, many middle- class users say they don't go to the clinics because they fear losing their privacy, Newmeyer said. Others say work and family obligations prevent them from going to the clinics and picking up the pill every day. The waiver, Newsom says, would allow addicts to get the drug from their own doctors, and some patients to get more than a day's supply at once. The waiver also could make it easier for teenagers to get methadone. Because parental consent is currently necessary, many teenage addicts go without treatment. (c) The Chronicle Publishing Company
------------------------------------------------------------------- Big Sting Targets Drug Zone In City (Letter To 'San Francisco Examiner' On Downtown Drug Sting) Subj: SENT:LTE: SFExaminer -- Big Sting Targets Drug Zone From: email@example.com (Joel W. Johnson) Date: Fri, 2 Jan 1998 17:02:10 -0800 RE: Big Sting Targets Drug Zone In City PUB: December 26, 1997 To the Editor: Police Captain Martel admits "[w]e know realistically that it is only a matter of time before [the drug dealers arrested in police drug sting] come back [to the area around Sixth and Market streets]," yet he still insists that 'Operation T-Bone' was necessary and effective (December 26). Frankly, I am amazed by such a complete waste of energy. We take folks who have no home or money, many with drug problems, and we arrest them. So, where are they going to go once released? You guessed it -- right back to selling dope on the streets. We're not solving the problem, just delaying it till a more convenient time. Or maybe we just like to illude ourselves that the problem has diminished. Martel asks, "[w]hat else can you do?" Well, if we were to fund housing and education instead of police stings, we might actually get results in fighting drug abuse, and consequently diminish the business feeding the drug dealers. Better yet, we could regulate the flow of drugs and instantly elimate their jobs, and thus greatly reducing the scope of our drug problem. But however we choose to clean up the drug infested area of Sixth and Market, let us first be true to ourselves and our pocketbooks by refusing to take action that we already know is doomed to failure. Sincerely, Joel W. Johnson (contact info) -------------------------------------------------------------------
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