Are Supervised Injection Sites An Effective Approach?

What if there were one thing that could save the thousands of people from the heroin epidemic that is currently sweeping the nation? A silver bullet. A cure for addiction. Whatever you call it, mayor of Ithaca, New York, Svante Myrick, believes that he has the answer to this problem. Outlined in a full-length proposal that Myrick calls the “Ithaca Plan” is an idea that has been proven to work in other parts of the world, like Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. It’s a plan to prevent overdoses that result in death by providing supervised injection sites where addicts can use heroin under the supervision of medical professionals. Naloxone would be onsite and all staff would be trained to administer it in the case that someone started to overdose. Additionally, those who struggle with heroin addiction would have treatment resources and counseling available if they wanted to overcome their substance abuse problem. In 2001, less than 6000 people died of a heroin overdose compared to 20,000 in 2014. The difference is jarring and looking ahead to the future, it shows no signs of letting up. “It’s everyday America now,” Myrick said. “And I was sick of not having any answers.” It’s edgy. It’s controversial. Some believe that by proposing this plan, Myrick is giving a “get out of jail free” card to every heroin addict out there, eliminating the fear of overdose so that they can use with abandon. Sen. George Amedore even went so far as to say that “It is an absolute, total misguided approach on how we’re going to eradicate this heroin addiction problem we have in this state.” The concerns of the community aren’t unwarranted. When these centers pop up in neighborhoods around the world, many members are worried about the crime and public disturbances that would accompany them. People also argue that what works for small countries in Europe, may not translate to a vast western country. This was definitely the case for the drug and crime-ridden Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, Canada. Back in 2000, Vancouver was experiencing extreme levels of heroin abuse and according to a study it was “among the highest HIV infection rates of any community in the Western world.” When they began introducing safe using sites, like one called Insite, the surrounding areas actually saw less crime, less apparent drug abuse, fewer discarded needles, and perhaps most importantly, they saw a decrease in overdoses. The facility also engaged and brought addiction out of the shadows of the city. One of the keys to defeating addiction is eradicating the stigma that is so often associated with drug use. It is essential. While many think that safe injection sites would forge a pathway to legalization, what if it doesn’t have to be this way? What if it could help create a safe and reachable pathway for addicts to get the treatment they need? What do you think about safe injection sites? Would they help our communities and the addicted people within them to reach long-term recovery or would they work against us? Share with us in the comments below.