Harm Reduction Advocates Distribute 'Snort Kits' To Cocaine Users in Seattle

By McCarton Ackerman 11/15/16

The snort kits include a plastic razor blade, straws, and a small spoon. 

Harm Reduction Advocates Distribute 'Snort Kits' To Cocaine Users in Seattle
Photo: People’s Harm Reduction Alliance

In an effort to reduce the public harm from drug use, Seattle harm reduction advocates are taking a bold step by handing out “snort kits” to cocaine users.

Seattle Weekly reported that the People’s Harm Reduction Alliance, located in the city’s University District, began handing out the kits at the beginning of the year. They’ve teamed up with Stay Safe Seattle to distribute them for free, and passed out 418 kits between April and September.

Each kit consists of a Ziploc plastic bag with six different-colored straws, a plastic razor blade, a piece of plastic that’s the surface equivalent of a credit card and a small spoon to do bumps off of.

PHRA employee Lisa Al-Hakim noted that hepatitis C “transfers from people sharing straws or dollar bills because there’s blood vessels in your nose that pop. You can’t see the blood, but it’s in there.” She also said the spoons in the kits are a safer option because for a single snort's worth of cocaine, “people generally use their keys, which are also full of tons of germs,” while clean straws are also a more hygienic option than rolled-up dollar bills that have been touched by countless hands.

Fellow PHRA colleague director Shilo Murphy said that after previously distributing free crack and meth pipes, addressing cocaine use was the next logical step. He believes it’s an important issue to tackle since many people still perceive cocaine users to be affluent.

“You start talking about snorting kits and people chuckle and laugh, like, ‘Oh, you can’t find a fucking straw?’” said Murphy. “People have these interesting perceptions of people’s needs and disease prevention by class and race … [but] everyone’s a poly drug user. Everyone’s doing more than one drug.”

Seattle has continued to be at the forefront of harm reduction in the U.S. Over the summer, city officials endorsed the first safe heroin injection site in the country. The plan was put forth by the city’s Heroin Task Force, formed by Mayor Ed Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine.

The city has already adopted a safe-consumption dormitory site for alcohol at 1811 Eastlake Avenue. The facility allows its resident chronic alcoholics to drink on-site, and participate in treatment programs when they’re ready for it. A 2012 study from the University of Washington showed that residents reduced their drinking by about one-third and the facility saved taxpayers about $4 million annually on emergency services and housing.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.