In the pamphlet “Shoot Smart Shoot Safe,” a set of instructions guides crack users through every step necessary to safely inject cocaine: from step one, assembling the necessary tools — cooker, water, syringe, citric acid and wipes — to step seven, cleanly withdrawing the needle. A sidebar entitled “Take care of yourself” offers a tip for users to take extra vitamin C and drink plenty of fluids.
“I do not endorse drugs, drug use — any of that,” said Mark Kinzly of the CT Harm Reduction Coalition, the group responsible for distributing the pamphlet.
Instead, Kinzly, who spoke last night as part of a series on criminal justice sponsored by Yale’s Students Legal Action Movement, endorses the safety and treatment of drug users in a country that he said “marginalizes already marginalized people.”
Speaking at the Afro-American Cultural Center before a group of 14, Kinzly asked if anyone had used drugs in the past week, defining a drug as any substance that produces a significant change in the body. He listed examples: marijuana, cocaine, nicotine, caffeine. Every hand was raised.
“We live in a drug-consuming nation,” said Kinzly, with a cup of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee in one hand. “But how we deal with drugs in this nation is totally ludicrous.”
Kinzly and his long-time assistant, Anthony Givens, said they saw drugs wreak devastation on their own lives before they eventually recovered. Givens has been clean for 15 years now, but he said he tried everything.
“The drug that was kicking my ass,” he said, “was crack.”
Kinzly said he witnessed the effect of crack cocaine on the inner city, where its popularity quickly spread.
“When crack-cocaine hit the scene, it raised holy hell,” Kinzly said.
The idea behind “harm reduction” is to minimize the harmful effects of drugs rather than trying to eradicate drug-use altogether. The coalition’s objective is to educate the public about safer drug use and advocate healthier models of drug prevention and treatment.
Kinzly, who is also a needle exchange provider and a researcher at the Yale School of Public Health, also spoke in support of needle exchange programs and the medical use of marijuana, both issues that concern the coalition.
“People say I’m encouraging [drug users],” Kinzly said. “They’re using. I don’t have to encourage them.”