Politicians and government leaders are trying to combat the nation’s opioid epidemic. With usage, addiction, and overdose rates on the rise, it’s growing into an urgent and pressing matter for everyone living here. The destructive vice of drug addiction claims more lives every day, with no part of the country left untouched. From small, close-knit communities to the biggest cities, everyone knows someone affected by illegal substances. Approximately 64,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2016 alone, according to data compiled by the New York Times.
Government officials are facing repeated calls for change and action from advocates and grieving families and friends. The latest headlines in the drug crisis show how the discussion is now including talks about safe injection sites. According to a January 10th article from NPR, top Philadelphia leaders are pushing for the city to become the first in the country to open a supervised injection site, where individuals suffering from Heroin or Opioid addiction could use the drugs under careful medical supervision.
The proposal is stirring up controversy on both sides, and the measure must first overcome resistance from an opposition that includes many top city police officials, local residents and the federal government.
It’s a divisive notion: people bring their own drugs to shoot up under the watch of trained medical professionals, in a safe space that provides clean needles and other equipment. Advocates argue these sites provide a path to treatment and recovery, while saving drug users from eventual overdose death.
On the flip side, many public figures have expressed their concern over these sites and their potential to further the drug epidemic and give drug users the tools they need to continue their life-threatening habits.
Opponents also worry that safe injection sites would play a role in relapses. When detoxing from Heroin addiction, users experience difficult withdrawal symptoms. Many struggle to cope with these uncomfortable physical and mental side effects as their body rids itself of toxic substances. This period of time can be extremely difficult to manage and overcome, and that’s a big reason why so many users end back up on the street, scrounging for their next hit.
The debate continues as Heroin, arguably the most well-known opioid drug in the world, causes upheaval in countless families and communities. It’s becoming easier and easier to access Heroin and other dangerous drugs, making addiction a more likely future for anyone who tries these substances. In 2013, the number of heroin overdose deaths in the U.S. was 8,257 — more than double the number in 2010.
With no great solution on the horizon for drug addiction, some are supporting safe injection sites as a way to manage the epidemic. While there are none in the United States, nearly 90 official facilities can be found across the globe. Other U.S. cities have initiated conversations about the possibility, including Seattle, San Francisco, and Denver.
Philadelphia is being considered for a safe injection site, largely due to the fact that its opioid crisis is mostly concentrated in one neighborhood, where some of the cheapest, purest and most deadly heroin in the country can be found.
The city’s new district attorney, Larry Krasner, has expressed his support for safe injection sites, promising he would not prosecute users there. “Supervised injection sites are a form of harm reduction,” Krasner told NPR. “The only way to get people to turn their lives around is to keep them alive long enough so they can do that. And we’re going to do that.”