Conservatives launched an online frenzy this week, claiming that the federal government plans to spend $30 million on pipes for smoking crack cocaine. The concern came months after the Department of Health and Human Services announced federal grants for local programs that provide myriad “harm reduction” tools, or services that minimize the risks associated with drug use, including distributing drug paraphernalia such as clean needles. Republicans seized on “crack pipes,” causing the phrase to trend on Twitter, the latest in continued resistance from the GOP against harm-reduction techniques at a time when people are dying of drug overdoses at record rates, the Washington Post reports.. In a first-of-its-kind grant distributed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, dozens of organizations could spend money over three years on a preapproved list of resources, including referrals to treatment, infectious-disease testing kits, condoms, and vaccinations for hepatitis. Also on the list: “safe smoking kits.” Typically, such kits include a rubber mouthpiece to prevent cuts and burns, brass screens to filter contaminants and disinfectant wipes.
“Obviously, we would like everybody who is addicted to never use drugs again, but if we can’t have that, we should be grateful to at least reduce use or reduce the damage of use to that person or to the people around them,” said Keith Humphreys, an addiction researcher at Stanford University School of Medicine. On Wednesday, the White House and HHS denied the funds would be spent on crack pipes. “HHS and ONDCP are focused on using our resources smartly to reduce harm and save lives. Accordingly, no federal funding will be used directly or through subsequent reimbursement of grantees to put pipes in safe smoking kits,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Rahul Gupta.