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NYC Dept. of Health: ‘Be Empowered’ You Use Drugs ‘Safely’


***If you or a loved one are addicted to drugs please seek help. There is no safe way to take drugs. Call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357. It is staffed 365/24/7. Cities have treatment centers, too. You are not alone. There are people out there, even strangers, who are willing to help you.

The Washington Free Beacon‘s Noah Pollak received a photo of this poster in Manhattan.

Notice the “find support” number is at the bottom. Above the number, we have the department normalizing drug abuse despite evidence of fentanyl-laced drugs. Leslie wrote about the link between those drugs and teens.

Don’t be ashamed. OK, I can get behind that sentiment. We shouldn’t dehumanize addicts and shove them aside. They need help, love, and compassion.

But the rest disturbs the heck out of me. There is a safe way to use drugs!?

Instead of encouraging you to get help, Florence wants you to feel “empowered that you are using safely.”

WHY is a department of health giving drug users a gold star for using drugs safely?

Florence and the NYC Department of Health think you cannot break the habit. Is kicking the drug habit a complex and lengthy process? Yes, but you can do it. Once an addict, always an addict. You have to work at it the rest of your life, but you can do it.

The worst part of the poster:

Do you know how you prevent overdoses? You seek help and quit drugs.

  • “Avoid using alone and take turns.” Yes, go ahead and share that needle with someone else!
  • “Start with a small dose and go slowly.” Yes, build up your tolerance! You don’t want to overdose on the first try!
  • “Have naloxone on hand.” Yes, get the nasal spray to use in case of an overdose. But don’t bother asking for help.
  • “Avoid mixing drugs.” Because, you know, only using heroin or cocaine won’t result in an overdose.
  • “Test your drugs using fentanyl test strips.” Yes, get your test trips instead of asking for help or finding a way to get clean. Make sure you grab the naloxone nasal spray!

The “avoid an overdose” section is also on the website:

The Department of Health website tells people how to get a free naloxone kit. The department also understands that COVID increases stress, which “can change your drug use routines, which may increase your risk of overdose.”

I reached out to NYC Department of Health Commissioner Dt. Ashwin Vasan. I can already guess how he will respond. “There are people who cannot or won’t quit.” “We also encourage people to get help and have hotlines they can call.” “We have resources around the city for people to get help.”

Who developed these posters? Who approved these posters?

NYC has safe injection sites. It reminds me of Hamsterdam in The Wire. (If you haven’t watched The Wire, you must! Best show ever.) But these centers also provide resources and help for addicts to start the journey to a clean life. As I said above, it’s a long and arduous process. Many people cannot go cold turkey and need to ween themselves off the drugs. It doesn’t happen overnight. It might take a while to convince an addict to take the first step.

The information is excellent for families and friends who have loved ones using drugs. But please get them help. I know the drug user has to want to do it. Instead of empowering the drug user for using drugs safely, show them what life could be like without the drugs. Explain what the drugs are doing to their body even if they follow the department’s guidelines.

Unfortunately, some people cannot kick the habit. It’s a reality we must face, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to help them instead of normalizing the behavior.

Don’t dehumanize the users but don’t normalize the behavior.

The fact is there is no safe way to use drugs.


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