Amidst the huge drug epidemic of the 1980s, shelters around big cities offered free hypodermic needles to those who were using. A contributing factor to this was the increasing risk of AIDS among drug users due to needle-sharing. This was controversial decades ago, and civil protection orders in Seattle for new programs mirroring the practice are still being debated upon. Seattle is set to consider making a safe drug-injection site in hopes that it will decrease the epidemic of opioid use and overdose.
In what is almost a mentality of “if you can’t beat them, join them,” the city of Seattle is launching a test site where users can use drugs freely out in the open, but under the watchful eye of medical supervision. It is a city that still hands out free needles for drug injection, but with the newest trend in overdosing being drugs that aren’t injected, the hope is to curb the exploding rates of those dying due to overdoing it.
In the previous several years there have been recorded high fatal heroin drug overdosing in King County, which is where Seattle is located, but it isn’t just heroin that is causing massive carnage. The gateway to heroin, prescription drugs, are also wreaking havoc, not just on the streets of Seattle but nationwide. The first safe injection facility is being considered by King County to help users know when to say “enough,” and stop before they take too much and overdose.
These “Community Health Engagement Locations,” as they are being labeled, will be implementing not only supervision but also education about drugs and the overdosing of them. In other harm-reducing methods to help people curb or kick their drug use, the centers will also offer buprenorphine, which is an opioid medication that is used to treat those who are seeking drug recovery. There will also be Narcan, better known as naloxone, on hand if someone does overdo it. The drug can reverse the effects of an overdose and save a drug addict’s life if used in time.
The reality that Seattle might be coming to terms with is that there will never be a world that is “drug-free.” Instead of throwing resources into trying to stop drug use, efforts would be better spent on trying to save people from themselves through education and teaching, and ultimately through monitoring people’s drug use. Seattle is using as proof that their method will work some statistics from other countries where they monitor drug use instead of prohibiting it. If you can’t keep drugs off the streets, then it is safer to help those who want to use them to save themselves through moderation.
Some worry that the new “legal, safe zones” for drug users might start to attract those around the country to Seattle and overrun the streets with drug use. Cities like Vancouver have likewise experimented with making safe zones for drug use, but they have not seen the success that Amsterdam and other cities have found. The mess created in Vancouver is the cause of the fear following Seattle’s wish to build new drug sites.
Another concern being raised by Senator Mark Miloscia is that allowing people to do drugs legally and out in the open is setting a very poor precedent. Allowing heroin in public might be nothing more than an invitation to disaster. Working diligently, Miloscia was able to pass a bill in the Senate that bans sites like the one being launched in Seattle. The bill’s passage now lies in the hands of the State’s House Health Care and Wellness Committee for approval.
Miloscia insists that it isn’t just about promoting drug use, but about everything that comes with drug addiction and abuse. He believes that the centers will open up a Pandora’s box, leading to things like domestic abuse and criminal acts of assault. When someone is on heroin their ability to reason is nonexistent and the need to pay for their next high, whether it is legal and monitored or not, will lead to crime and theft for drugs.
Proponents of the measure tell a different story. When a drug is deemed illegal, it only pushes it out of societal norms and allows a subsection of the population to hide their behaviors and go to great lengths not to be discovered. The “war on drugs” has gotten America nowhere in the fight to keep drugs off the streets and out of the local high schools. From heroin to cocaine to crack, every generation has had their drug hurdle to overcome. If drugs could be stopped, surely by now they would have been.