Needle Exchange and Christian Ethics

There has been a resurgence of interest in the harm reduction program of Needle Exchange. The basic philosophy behind the program is that if drug users will swap out their used needles for clean ones then there may be a decrease in the spread of both HIV and Hepatatis C. The problem with the program is that it does turn a blind eye toward drug abuse and even enables abuse and addiction. So as a Christian what do you think is the right response to such a program? Do you think Christians should support it or reject it?

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • MikeAugustine

    Overall, I support the program. But I also believe that any exchange should be contingent on the person’s enrollment in program(s) that address the social, medical issues that might underlie their using. I think a lot of addiction is tied to low self-esteem and simple bad habits. A person who learns better coping ability and job skills is more likely to overcome addiction IMHO.

  • David Dunham

    That’s a great thought, Mike. Obviously the program itself isn’t designed to deal with drug addiction, which is a whole other concept. The goal of the program is simply to decrease hep c.

  • I thought you might be interested to read another response to your question on Steven Slate’s Clean Slate Addiction site. I think he really offers a valuable perspective on the subject of needle exchange programs — really interesting.

    Slate’s response seems to offer another question for those with Christian values…

  • I have worked in needle exchange. Many decades ago people tried to make needle exchange contingent on participating in a program. This was a total failure. People stopped coming in for clean needles and shared needles instead. You need to respect the humanity of the drug user if you work in needle exchange. They are not to be dehumanized and treated is inferior. I do not consider drug use a sin period.

    If Jesus were alive today he would take five syringes and two heroin cookers and multiply them to enable a multitude to shoot up safely with five baskets of syringes to be gathered up thereafter.

    If you want a real good perspective on Christianity and harm reduction check out this article:

    Why I help addicts shoot up
    A Christian defence of harm reduction
    By Meera Bai with John Stackhouse

  • David Dunham

    I think there is another side to this question as well, which is the consequences for others of not offering a needle exchange program. For example, a few months back there was a case of a city trash collector who contracted Hep C when he got pricked by a dirty needle while cleaning the local park. Dirty needles get left everywhere and that increases the possibility of innocent bystanders contracting diseases. It’s another perspective on the matter.

    I’d love to hear from someone who is on the other side of this discussion. So if you’re out there and you don’t agree with this program as a Christian please share your thoughts.