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Portland Non-Profit Handing Out Free Meth Pipes, Naloxone Kits

By McCarton Ackerman 05/11/16

Meth addiction is a major issue across Oregon and the Portland People’s Outreach Project is on a rogue mission to help those in need.

Portland Non-Profit Handing Out Free Meth Pipes, Naloxone Kits
Photo via People’s Harm Reduction Alliance

A nonprofit in Portland, Oregon, is defying both conventional approaches, and the law, when it comes to addressing the city's drug problem: by handing out free meth pipes.

According to the Oregonian, the Portland People’s Outreach Project (PPOP) gave out 440 meth pipes in Portland in the first quarter of 2016. The organization has so far spent $3,500 on 7,000 meth pipes, according to Shilo Murphy, executive director of the People's Harm Reduction Alliance (PHRA). PPOP is a project of the Seattle-based PHRA, which has been giving out meth and crack pipes for over a year.

According to Murphy, a lack of pipes has led some meth users to turn to needles and smoking out of harmful DIY devices like lightbulbs. Drug users who frequent the PPOP, which also supplies sandwiches, toothbrushes and condoms, asked for the pipes, he told the Oregonian. PHRA's own program has recorded a decline in injecting meth users since it started dispensing free pipes. This is good news, since sharing needles can spread HIV and hepatitis C.

"Nobody knows what's good for drug users better than drug users, and I think that's a standpoint that's neglected and really not given the credence and the value that it should," said PPOP volunteer, Sam Junge, who expects that meth pipe programs will eventually become common practice in harm reduction communities.  

Meth abuse remains a major issue across Oregon. It is responsible for more deaths (and arrests) in Oregon than any other drug. In 2014, about 140 people across the state died from causes related to meth, which include heart attacks, seizures or strokes. That same year, 111 Oregonians died of heroin use.

So far, the programs in Portland and Seattle seem to be the only ones to distribute pipes in the country. Pipes are the newest amenity offered by the PPOP, but it has also handed out 260,000 syringes and 910 naloxone kits between February 2015 to March 2016.

The PPOP is operating despite the fact that giving away meth pipes is technically illegal, Sgt. Greg Stewart, a Portland police spokesman, told the Oregonian. But the police don't plan on going after PPOP until they receive "calls for service" against the organization, which so far has not amounted to much, said Stewart. 

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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.

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