Alarm over the growing epidemic of opioid overdose deaths in the U.S. has prompted some urban officials to advocate for safe facilities where addicts can inject drugs without harassment. Such sites already exist in Europe and Canada, and officials in New York and Washington are laying the groundwork for similar sites in their states.
Harm Reduction Is the Goal
Conventional law enforcement and prevention programs have not put a stop to urban drug use. Some city officials see the establishment of supervised facilities as a way to reduce drug-related problems that have plagued urban neighborhoods for decades. In these supervised injection sites, users would inject heroin in a safe, clean, comfortable setting under the watchful eye of trained medical personnel.
Proponents believe such sites would:
- Prevent overdose deaths
- Reduce the spread of HIV, Hepatitis C & other infections
- Allow an underserved street population to have access to medical, mental heath & social services
- Provide a venue for education & referral to addiction treatment
- Clean up blighted urban areas & urban crime
The Other Side of the Argument
Many law enforcement and public health experts not only oppose supervised injection sites; they also reject the harm reduction philosophy behind them. John P. Walters, former director of drug control policy under President George W. Bush, recently wrote this in an opinion piece in USA Today: “For addicts, the humane public health response is to help them get and stay sober, or at the very least, opioid replacement therapy in sustained treatment. Any approach without these goals is cruel and dehumanizing—not healing, but perpetuating harm.”
Treatment for Lasting Recovery
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