Public Health Warning: How to Use Heroin Safely

Recently, I read an item in our local newspaper about a woman who overdosed on heroin at her home.  Her brother broke down the door to her bedroom where she was found unconscious and not breathing.  She was taken to the hospital.  Right around that same time, my husband brought home a flyer he got at the Seattle courthouse from the King County Public Health Department which made my head spin.

The notice was issued by the Public Health Department and warned of several heroin-related deaths in King County.  No where on the notice did it say anything about getting off drugs, entering a rehab, referring individuals to N.A. meetings, or anything remotely addressing the problem of addiction.

Instead, it warned all users to treat all heroin as “suspect.”  The Department didn’t know whether the deaths were caused by stronger heroin or a contaminant but said the deaths may have been caused by a “newer type of heroin” that’s hard, brittle and dark in color.

Here’s what the Department advised junkies to do in order to reduce the risk of an overdose and death:

Don’t use alone.  When you fix alone or behind a locked door, no one can help you if you overdose.

Test for strength and quality.  When you use a new supply or dealer, do a tester shot first.  Inject slowly.

Tolerance.  If you have not used in a while, your body can’t handle the same amount it did before.  Start with a smaller amount.  Do a tester shot.

Mixing drugs.  Mixing heroin or other opiates with downers like benzos or alcohol can be deadly.  Uppers and downers DO NOT cancel each other out!

Naloxone.  Know how to use it!  You can get naloxone at the Robert Clewis Center (downtown needle exchange).

If I hadn’t seen the flyer, and my husband had told me about it, my immediate response would’ve been, “you’re kiddin’?”  By the way, Naloxone is a drug used to counter the effects of an opiate (heroin or morphine) overdose.

Apparently, we also have a 911 Good Samaritan Law in Washington because the flyer advises that “under WA law, if you think someone is OVERDOSING and you SEEK MEDICAL HELP for the victim, neither of you will be charged for POSSESSING OR USING A SMALL AMOUNT OF DRUGS.”  Now isn’t that comforting?

I don’t know about you, but I find this whole thing very troubling.  No where on the notice does the Public Health Department provide any information regarding addiction but rather almost encourages continued use by providing information on how to safely use heroin.

I’ve always known that Seattle is a very permissive city.  It ties the hands of police officers, it allows bums to remain on the street annoying city dwellers and visitors alike, it permits these same bums to defecate and urinate around public buildings and bus stops, and, I clearly remember years ago seeing tables on street corners with people handing out “clean” needles.  (I‘m not sure if they still do that.)

I’ve always measured a city’s safety by how I feel walking alone on its streets.  I’ve walked alone on the streets in cities in America and Europe and I can honestly say that I’ve never felt comfortable walking alone in Seattle.

I hate to be cynical but my professional experience with drug abusers tells me that any heroin user who wants to shoot up will shoot up and won’t care about “using alone” or “testing for strength or quality.”

This whole notice thing is legitimizing an illegal activity, kind of like telling an armed robber not to use bullets in his weapon.

I don’t get it, but if you do, God bless you.

Author Bio:

For over twenty years, Leona has tried to heed her husband’s advice, “you don’t have to say everything you think.” She’s failed miserably. Licensed to practice law in California and Washington, she works exclusively in the area of child abuse and neglect. She considers herself a news junkie and writes about people and events on her website, “I Don’t Get It,” which she describes as the “musings of an almost 60-year old conservative woman on political, social and cultural life in America.” It’s not her intention to offend anyone who “gets it.” She just doesn’t. Originally from Brooklyn, and later Los Angeles, she now lives with her husband, Michael, on a beautiful island in the Pacific Northwest, which she describes as a bastion of liberalism.
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  • Autumn

    Your opinions on this show that you have never had any sort of intimate relationship with a drug user.

    Drug users don’t quit unless they want to quit, and at that point, information and resources have been pushed down their throats so many times that they know exactly where to find it.

    Drug users don’t entirely disregard their safety. Sure, they disregard most things that will interfere with them getting their fix, but if there’s a way to make themselves safer that still allows them to get high, they’ll absorb and use the information.

    Also, your blatant resent towards people who have either A) gone through harder times than you or B) weren’t able to cope with hard times as well as you were shows a complete and utter lack of understanding and empathy.

    You may not understand the flyer, but I believe most people don’t understand you.

  • StonedinNY

    All these comments are sickining. Calling addicts losers, scum, stating it would be better for the community if they die. Those “loser, worthless addicts” have and have came from families that love them dearly, they have mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, friends, husbands, wives. An addict doesnt ask or plan to become an addict, they werent born into the world with the plan of becoming a junkie. Addiction is a mental illness, no different than any other mental disability. Sure its easy for someone whos never endured the nightmare of addiction to point fingers and call an addict names, but try walking in their shoes. Like i said, addiction is not a choice and most, if not all addicts have and/or come from a history of some form of sadness or depression in their life. They use to dull the pain, to try to forget. And also dont forget, addiction is inherited. The addicts mother and/or father were more than likely addicts at some point in time, even if it was for a short while. Not everyone can cone from or live the perfect “house, dog and white picket fence” life you all “apparently” live. Before you point fingers and judge, make damn sure your 100% perfect. Or else all i can say is dont throw stones in a glass house, dont be the pot calling the kettle black..yadda tadda, ect, ect. Its pretty damn shameful in my humble opinion.

    • Joe

      Agreed. Also though- I would posit that most of the negatives of being an “addict” come from societies entrenched discrimination against drug users: both the social stigma against being a drug person and the legal institutionalized hatred that allows for the users of drugs to be treated as criminals. it goes far beyond legalization of drugs, or harm reduction- its the entire concept that drug people are somehow fucking up, that their degenerates, and that i’ts a choice they made… it sounds a lot like how we used to treat gay people… first they were criminal deviants- then we started talking about how maybe it was a mental health problem that we could “fix”- finally someone came up with the radical notion that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it and some folks are just gay folks— we need to get to that point with drug people and stop treating them like they :”made the wrong choices”— some people are just drug people, and that’s ok.

  • Disgustedbyyou

    your opinions about this are disgusting.  The department of public health does many things to help get their clients off of drugs but this was just one flyer meant to warn people who are still using.  Just because someone uses drugs does not mean that there life is not worth saving. 

  • Bruskie

    This seems like another tyical example of the “do gooder progressives” trying to be helpful and not having a clue about what they are saying, wheather it be public policy, addiction or problem drug users.  They always seem to believe their ideas should work even when they almost always fail!

  • phatso2


    The producers of this short film are both recovering addicts who have both spent time living and indulging with drug addiction in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Today they are both clean and sober with multiple years of recovery
    Addiction: Chaos in Vancouver


    public health warning,  dont visit the hookers in columbia !!

  • Roger Ward

    It doesn’t bother me a bit that drug users overdose and die …. it helps clean up the gene pool.  Actually, it bothers me in one way:  the cost to decent citizens (in the taxes they pay and in the declining quality of life they must endure.)

    It should be noted that Seattle is one of the most liberal cities in the country.  I don’t impugn the motives of the Seattle voters;  I’m sure they mean well and would like to help others …. but their “progressive” policies will always make a bad situation worse.

  • Glen

    Heroin must be safe when used as directed by the City of Seattle?!  Maybe if the city dispensed it they could be even more certain of its “quality”.

    • Joe

      I’m assuming you’re comments to be sarcastic- the second part is, however, correct- in less draconian societies where needle exchanges are viewed like free condoms (a public health service that works to prevent aids) they also have a wonderful little program called H.A.T. (heroin assisted treatment) where the government provides clean safe heroin to addicts. its been running in some places for over a decade and it shows nothing but effectiveness in its ability to turn the drug users that you people love to dehumanize into the productive members of society that you’ve tried so hard to prevent them from becoming. Also putting quotations around the word quality is meant to imply what? are you somehow suggesting that measures of quality on substances that are to be ingested are somehow not real or irrelevant? Or are you equating quality with what you consider to be the social desirability of recreational diamorphine (which is what heroin is actually called now, heroin is a brand name like q-tip or tylenol, or Kleenex, Heroin is just Bayer brand diacetylmorphine).

  • Ron F

    As I understand it, the warning was given because of the high number of deaths by overdoses in a short time.  It does not mean that the Health Department does not also have programs that try to discourage drug use.  Nevertheless, my guess is that the warnings were just as ineffectual as the warnings about drug use.

  • Shelleyhncck

    Oh goody! I’m sure this is very comforting to heroin addicts who might have previously understood that their addiction was going to kill them eventually unless they got off of the drugs. But now that the health department has issued guidelines for safe heroin use, addicts now have a false sense of security about it. I mean if the health department condones heroin use as long as these “safety precautions” are taken, then why should anyone go through the hell withdrawal?

  • robin in fl

    well perhaps they are aware the heroin users/losers are going to use it regardless ,so they are just trying to let the geniuses know how not to overdose on it ??? just my guess?

    we all know humans can be real dumb.that’s just obvious.and we will just keep seeing humans do the same ol’ stupid ‘shake your head’ kinda’ stuff ,as long as people reproduce and have no clue how to actually raise or take care of a child..because you see,those ‘oh so cute ‘ little babies sometimes just turn into drug addicts on the streets because mommy and daddy were not real parents that taught them right from wrong,they(mommy and daddy) were probably too busy scoring some drugs or partying to really give a ****!

    I’m lucky ,my streets are really safe to walk here and I see NO peoblems when I’m out walking my pitbulls,,all is quite and all is good…ahhhh nature,ya’ gotta’ LOVE it!

    • Waylon gill

      What a knob!!! I think I’d rather have a conversation with your dog, some people are dumb yeah your mum gave birth to you ignorant arse and no doubt your give birth to another ignorant arsehole let’s hope that the shit that comes out of your mouth doesn’t contaminate other peoples views on things that just try an educate people thank god I live in a tolerant country the UK

      • Michael

        “thank god I live in a tolerant country the UK”

        And one doesn’t have to watch or read the news from the UK for long t0 see what your tolerance has brought you.  Your own government, along with the governments – or representatives in government – of France, Germany, and the Netherlands, has acklowledged the limits and costs of too much tolerance.  

        Drug addicts are a strain and drain on, and often a threat to, society, period.  The only excpetions may be family members of the hated one percenters, who at least can afford to pay for treatment, and not milk the public system. 

        Robin merely stated what most of us have seen and know to be true.  Your comments remind me of the backlash I get from animal rights extremists when I point out that most of their cute little adorable animals in the wild actually stay alive by stalking, ambushing, ripping to shreds, and then eating other animals.  The truth is just too much for some people.

  • JD

    Great article, as always.  Most heroin addicts “rehab” by overdosing and dying [based upon my 7 1/2 years of narcotics enforcement].  I’m a Washington resident and think the “Seattle Mentality” stinks……..

  • Michael

    All the more reason to return to the days of limited government, especially as it relates to federal power.  Without state and federal handouts, King County and the city of Seattle probably would not be able to waste time and money on such stupidity.  Or, if they did, they’d fail, and the local citizens would replace the incompetent fools.