New York's health authorities were on the defensive Tuesday over a pamphlet likened by critics to a DIY manual for heroin addicts.
The 10-step pamphlet titled "Take Charge, Take Care," features color drawings and easy-to-read text starting with a page on how to prevent overdose.
The health department said the aim was to protect users from spreading the HIV infection and suffering from overdoses.
But critics, including the City Council and law enforcement officials, lambasted what they said was publicly funded encouragement for illegal drug use.
"I think tips provided in the pamphlet are not good in terms of preventing anyone from going down the road," John Gilbride, special agent in the field division of the Drug Enforcement Administration, told ABC television.
"It's enabling a user, or potential user. It implies you can use heroin in a safe manner, which is false. There is no safe way to use heroin."
The health department fought back, saying the "pamphlet provides potentially life saving advice for people until they get into treatment."
"Accidental overdose is the fourth leading cause of early adult death in New York City, claiming more than 600 lives each year, but there's another big issue here -- HIV and AIDS," the department said in a statement.
"While the purpose of this pamphlet is to get people off drugs and into treatment, we also can't lose sight of the importance of preventing HIV transmission."
The 16-page pamphlet includes tips such as "Use with someone else," "Know your tolerance," "Don't share," and "Use new syringes."
Practical advice is given on how to prepare heroine and how to inject. "Shoot correctly to avoid infection and collapsed veins," Tip Number Six says.