tv Ali Velshi on Target Al Jazeera April 8, 2016 9:00pm-9:31pm EDT
we'll be back on monday night and we'll hope you will join us then. i'm john siegenthaler, "ali velshi on target" is next. >> i'm ali velshi. "on target" tonight. addiction in america. better tactics for fighting a new war on drugs. how cities and states are battling the latest heroin epidemics and dealing with a brand-new class of synthetic drugs. all week long al jazeera america is showcasing a selection of your stories. they're some of the most important issues we've covered on this channel for you. among the most urgent and
disturbing topics i've devoted time to addressing on this show and in this city is drug addiction. i've seen it firsthand as a volunteer among new york city's homeless pops and that's introduced me to a new softer approach to helping people addicted to heroin and other drugs. it's called harm reduction and views be addiction as more of an abuse issue and not as a crime. not everybody is on board with some of the radical ideas associated with harm reduction. in new york they actually want to give heroin addicts aosafe placa safeplace to shoot up. >> where are you taking me to? >> we're going here real quit and then to the bottom.
>> michael bay l known to everyone as highway mike. he can show you places where nobody ever sees. >> this is where we'll use at. >> is it a hard city to find places to use? >> not really but you know what? a lot of times we want it secluded. we don't want to be around society. >> all around the city from parks like this to abandoned buildings and underpasses people are shooting up heroin. >> what's the danger of being out here alone? >> definitely o ding, if you are given a shot and don't know what you're doing, you don't do the taste test you rush in and don't know. >> we know that people don't have a stable sterile place to inject drugs. we have lost so many people to overdose, so many people, young people, wonderful people, artists, creatives, smart
wonderful people that didn't need to die. >> in 2014, new york saw more deaths from heroin overdose than from homicide. and among drug users, those who inject in public places are twice as likely to od. driven by a fear of arrest or being discovered, they often rush their injections and increase odds for an overdose. that's why frost is leading a coalition of advocacy you groups, lobbying city officials to allow a radical idea, a place where addicts can inject drugs safely under intrftion o supervf
experts. >> with a safe facility they would have somewhere to go in the event they overdosed. about 100 injection facilities already exist worldwide. the one north american site is in vancouver. >> two million injections have taken place there, 2 million injections out of our cities, out of parks roadways and bathrooms and nobody has died. those 2 million injections have taken stuff off the street and given them a chance to live for another day. >> mark thoms fough thomas foug. >> for every dollar you spend at
insight, you're saving much more for that public use of drugs. >> but despite the evidence an injection facility in new york is anything but an easy sell. >> it's not really helping anybody benefit themselves in a way of like getting clean and starting a new life. >> some charge the facility would just enable drug users. and others like logan lewis, a director at camelot, say injection facilities fail to get to the root of drug abuse. >> like putting a person with a fever of 104 and sticking them in a bath of ice. will it cure the fever? of course but will it stop the disease, of course not. >> people are less likely to take up drug use, people who go to the injection site are more
likely, 30% more likely than someone on the street to attend detox or treatment. >> one new york city councilperson has come out for the facilities but the department of health has declined to say if it would consider the idea. still highway mike says the day drug users finally have a safe place toth just a second can't come soon enough. >> and as a user we'll go down there and have all our equipment and where we have to use. but if we're by ourself and something happened, that person wouldn't be found unless the next person that happened to use would happen to go that way or maybe the smell or the stench. >> coming up, america's new heroin epidemic has some states consider bans on what some
consider a absolute necessity, needle exchange programs. a look what's happening in florida, next. >> you and i, we're going to change this country... and we will change the world. >> monumental decisions... >> mr. president, there's a one in three chance of a second great depression. >> first hand accounts from the people who were there. >> there opinion was shocking. >> the challenges... >> ... that i'm president and i can't make anything happen. >> he stood up, he said "i'm finished". >> the realities. >> i thought it was worth us taking a shot.
states. we went to texas florida where e exchange advocates have fought for a decade of solution to a modern day epidemic. >> okay so as you can see, i pulled out a couple of syringes. then i put them in a pack. >> george can be found in his miami storage unit prepping. >> this is the type for a muscle. >> it's illegal under florida drug laws to distribute syringes. but for the past 15 years gibson has done just that. he has made handing out injection needles to drug users his life's work.
gibson runs the state's only known underground needle exchange group. we meet jason, he asks his real name not be used. people like jason make.gibson's clientele these days. white, desperate. >> after a while using the same need ms over anneedles over and, they become dull, and the risk infection the present. >> completely unprotected at this point with a needle stick out. >> head downtown and it doesn't take long to find a used syringe lying on the street. miami-dade county like other pockets of america is in the midst of a heroin epidemic that's becoming a public health
emergency. home to more than 10,000 injection drug users, more than 1 in 5 has hiv. one in five has hiv. >> dr. hanson tukes has been fighting to get a needle exchange program set up in miami-dade county. >> we have absence of any intervention to prevent disease. the highest rate of hiv in the country, one in every five people in miami-dade have hiv. if they don't have clean syringes they're going to spread it to each other. >> reduced rates of hiv in injection drug users by 30% or more. but tukes says it's not just hiv, other infections can result
in devastating illness. >> it's easy to have skin or soft tissue infections, the infections can progress, enter the bone, bloodstream and heart. those are the sorts of patients that die. >> a study tracking injection drug users at jackson memorial hospital found these new hampshirinjectionsin one year a. >> that is not right, it is not right anywhere, it's not right in the united states, it's not right in miami. >> and it's not cheap either. life you time health care for hiv can average $600,000 a patient, $300,000 for hepatitis c. >> they get picked up by an ambulance, taken oa hospital, these people are not pulling out their insurance card and paying
on private insurance. they are on the public' public'. >> miami-dade, infection disease elimination act. >> he's seen firsthand the ravages of the drug epidemic in the district he represents. it's one of the poorest most african american in the state. >> just because you have a drug addiction or you happen to have helpc or hiv, that doesn't stop people from having children, a family. how can they take a test when they come from a home where the parent is focused only on how to get the next high? >> the program would coast about $150,000, privately paid for and led 50 university of miami. but he has faced the same objections time and time again as when the bill was discussed in a senate committee meeting.
>> i still cannot bring myself to put the state put their stamp of approval on the use of illegal drugs. >> this concern over enabling illegal drugs, is the reason they remain illegal in these states. >> i don't want to continue their habits. >> tukes testified it's ultimately naive to think that the lack of syringes would stop drug use. >> the best we can do when we get them into rehab and clean, the best we can do is to make sure they don't have to live with a lifelong chronic illness such as hiv or hepatitis. >> if i were desperate enough i may even resort to using needles from someone else.
>> and braydon said needle exchange programs will help some people get clean. >> 40% of the people that have come to these programs have at some point. >> this year it are faces a tough fight. but he remains determined to see it through. >> there are plenty of bill wees pass here that i don't know if they affect people at home. but this is one that i know will help people. >> until that day, though, george gibson continues to risk arrest with his work. a life saved he says is worth more than the law. >> i believe in social justice and civil disobedience.
saving a person's life, a person's life is priceless. we can't wait on different legislators or policy makers, somebody has to do something and i feel that somebody has to be me. >> the florida legislature passed the bill setting up a neemeneedle exchange program. it will start may 1st. up next, i'll introduce you to a new synthetic drug that's sending droves of users to emergency rooms across america.
>> when do we want it? >> now. >> explosions going on... we're not quite sure - >> is that an i.e.d.? >> everyone has a story... and the only way to see all of america, is to see the human stories... one at a time. get to know the people, their struggles, their hardships and their triumphs. >> it gives me a lot of pride. >> our american story is written everyday. it's not always pretty, but it's real... and we show you like no-one else can. this is our american story. this is america tonight. >> america's heroin epidemic is not this country's only drug problem.
special chemical. this is basically the new electric cool aid acid test. >> oh my god, omg. it is like a marijuana high but some people it has a weed high with a heroin addiction. >> i watch these people die. >> you think you're in a third world country. >> k-2 is something that's uncontrollable to a person that uses it. what they have to do is just stop. and it's very, very very, very complicated for them to stop. this is my personal account of my experience smoking k-2. rule number one if you haven't smoked k-2 don't start. and in the summer of 2011 i had a fight with my mom and i took a walk down the block and i found a bag on the sidewalk. the stuff called deja vu. and i said this is that fake
stuff from the deli. i didn't buy into it at first i'd seen it in the deli but i can't believe anything you got out of the deli would get you high. i packed a bowl of that and i smoked it, i was three blocks away, i couldn't find myself back home. i thought, why waste money on marijuana, when i could go into the the deli and buy something that has ten times the potency. within a week or two i knew i couldn't stop smoking this stuff. i lost about 90 pounds from smoking k-2. it messed me up, exacerbated my mental illness, caused suicidal ideations. it's a feeling i don't like anymore. >> an alert from the cdc of a
highly addictive drug called k-2. >> individuals were admitted to the new york state hospital after smoking k-2. >> those experience extreme lows and highs. >> smoking goes by many different names, k-2, spice, wet lucy. it is sprayed with expha comab . >> specifically targeted to teens. >> you are starting to see k-2 cases in the early part of the as you recall. many of them just came in they were brought in by ems. and many of them were very violent, agitated, some were sleepy, but it was unclear what was triggering this. at one point, three or four of
them were delivered to us. this is something we had not seen. this itself is not marijuana at all. these compounds are made in the laboratory, they have effects similar to the marijuana, that is thc but effects can be variable, seizures, psychotic behavior, individuals that develop chest pain and stroke like symptoms. and some people have seizures. some people haveeizures for 45 minutes to an hour. when you are seizing you don't have blood flow to the brain. these effects can be life changing and devastating. >> you have no idea what you're ingesting or who put this together. it is russian roulette every time you buy a pa package of ths
stuffer. in 2015 we seized five times more than we seized in 2014. in 2014, we seized three times as much as we did the previous year. >> as a result of this synergy we have made over 75 arrests, nearly $15 million of assets. >> the vast majority comes from china, it comes from internet sales, they package it in things that are trendy appealing, and they put on these packages, not for human consumption. that's exactly what they are for. you can spend about $7,000 for a kiloof k-2 made in china. that investment would bring about two to 300,000 back on the street. several dea investigation he
found money being tracked back to the middle east, countries of conflict, syria, jordan, lebanon. >> as soon as we make these things illegal, criminal organizations will go back and they change one molecule. one. one molecule and it changes the entire drug. it changes the whole structure of the drug so the drug becomes legal and we're at it again. and that's the dynamic of what we're faced with. this synthetic drug business is a new frontier for dea, for drug enforcement. >> there's a lot of fear mongering and hysteria for k-2. that is played out in the press, thought what people are seeing in the day-to-day harm reduction world. >> we want to end the war on drugs and mass incarceration.
we know, we have a 40 year war on drugs. >> we will go wherever crack is being sold. >> criminalizing and stigmatizing people who use drugs, does not achieve the outcomes we want. we have to be up front to make sure we take a different approach. >> we're getting k-2 out of the street of new york and out of the hands of drug abusers. if you possess k-2 with the intent to distribute it, selling k-2 will be a misdemeanor punishable with up to one year in prison. this sends a clear message, we will find you and we will stop you.
>> one positive thing about the city council, they were very explicit about not wanting to target people who use k-2. however, i think we're still wary of the fact that criminalizing drugs have never worked in terms of reducing use. >> did nothing to affect the use of cannabinoids. the way it is bought, there will be no tax money collected from those sales. >> now that there are less bodegas selling it, people are mixing packs, you are imiej god knows hocombininggod knows how . at the same time, there is still no treatment for k-2. how i got off k-2.
unfortunately the k-2 addict is pretty much on his own. you hav to self-taper. wean, in other words. this is not easy. it basically means only smoke when you feel sick. a small amount. this means being miserable for weeks. >> we know how to treat addiction based on opiates and cocaine. the effects of these drugs. but you know synthetic cannabinoids are unknown. we don't know batch to batch and i think that's really the troubling aspect of this whole epidemic that we're seeing, it's a population of people that have really no follow-up care. there has to be research at the most basic level how we can create alternative therapies for
people that are addicted to these substances,. >> don't, don't do it. don't go back to k-2. it's emotionally isolating, it repels and isolates and it's self-punishment. that's it. >> that's our show for today. i'm ali velshi. thanks for joining us. fact that she would die. the manner in which she died, that's what he sh control over. >> inside the debate in california - that could ripple across the nation. should medically assisted suicide be legalized. >> we cannot legislation morality. this is a matter of personal choice.