The opioid crisis has been declared to be a public health emergency. The situation is dire. The situation is so dire in fact, that experts at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health along with others at the Clinton Foundation released a report with a controversial recommendation – safe consumption sites.
Opioids Are Destroying Lives
The opioid epidemic kills 90 Americans every single day. By creating safe consumption sites where drug addicts can use their drugs in a medically supervised environment, the experts believe this will lessen the chance for overdoses and ensure that medical staff will be on-hand to quickly react to them with life-saving treatment.
There are obviously two sides to this argument. Opponents say that safe injection sites will enable drug users while proponents retort they would keep drugs out of public spaces. Proponents also point to the obvious proximity to medical professionals.
As more pressure is applied to doctor’s who overprescribe opioids, Americans who can’t find easily persuaded medical professionals are turning to more dangerous street drugs. The CDC states heroin overdoses are on the rise. Throw in fentanyl, a synthetic opioid with a very high toxicity level, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for people dying in the streets.
A very unintended consequence of stopping pill mills and the supply is that it’s a great boon for the heroin market. It’s not like people stop [using drugs]. We don’t have enough treament slots. ~Susan Sherman, Professor a Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in a recent Huffington Post interview
Both Europe and Canada have provided safe consumption sites for decades and have seen very positive results, so the precedent exists this rather progressive idea may help Americans. Safe injections sites are located all around the world including Australia, Germany, Norway, Spain, & Switzerland. The areas don’t provide drugs, just medical staff and a clean environment in which addicts can use more safely.
Precedents for Success
Since safe injection sites aren’t legal in the US, there’s very little local data to draw from. There is however, an underground safe injection site that’s been operating in a secret location since 2014. And while data coming from such a place may not be sanctioned, a survey of of current patients looks promising.
The site is staffed by medical personnel trained in naloxone administration and other overdose prevention techniques.
A survey of about 100 participants showed that without a safe injection site, they would have been shooting up in public bathrooms or parking lots. They also would be rushing to make their injections, another cause potential overdose.
In the end, the users are safer and leave behind no dirty needles for the public to stumble upon. They’re also less likely to spread diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C.
A safe injection site also relieves some of the stress for addicts which seems to facilitate more open discussion with them about treatment options to eliminate their addiction altogether.