By Alina Cho, CNN
Critics are calling it nothing more than a "how-to" guide for drug addicts. But New York City's health department thinks a controversial flier that's being handed out to heroin users might just save a few lives.
The 16-page pamphlet is called "Take Charge, Take Care: 10 tips for safer use." It’s a virtual heroin how-to guide, complete with illustrations and detailed tips.
"Jump up and down to show your veins, find your vein before you try to inject it. Where's the health concern there? If you miss the vein, you might get a bruise? That's an egregious misuse of taxpayer money," says NYC Councilman Peter Vallone, Jr.
The brainchild of New York City's health department, the 70,000 fliers were paid for with 32,000 taxpayer dollars.
"I think it sends out the message, and the wrong message, that heroin use can be safe. Heroin use cannot be safe; heroin use can be deadly," says John Gilbride, special agent in charge, New York DEA.
That's exactly why New York's health department says these tips are crucial. Accidental overdose is the fourth-leading cause of death in the city, claiming more than 600 lives a year.
Another big issue: HIV and AIDS. One-third of Americans living with HIV are infected through injection drug use. One reason why the health department also encourages users not to share needles, but adds there's no healthy use of drugs, just helpful information.
“The messages are clear. It's about getting help to stop using drugs. It's about preventing overdose. It's about preventing HIV infection and hepatitis infections. That's the context,” says Dr. Adam Karpati, exec. deputy commissioner, NYC Dept. of Health.
The health department says the $32,000 they spent on the fliers is actually a drop in the bucket when you consider how much money is saved by preventing infections. Over a lifetime, treatments can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars per person.
The health department says not teaching people how to shoot up safely is turning your back on reality. Meaning you can try to tell someone to stop using drugs, but unless they're ready, they won't.