Illustration by Megan Bender.

Alternative road to recovery

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Humboldt County should reconsider establishing supervised injection facilities (SIFs).

The subject matter is polarizing. The simplified idea of a SIF is to administer drugs with clean needles and controlled dosages. Counseling and other services are offered throughout the process. The objective is to wean users off drugs. You’re essentially fighting fire with fire, but under careful supervision.

Philadelphia is becoming the first in the nation to open facilities that will allow drug users to inject under supervision. City officials approved the controversial proposition on Jan. 23, but supporters face further challenges to turn the idea into a reality. These include ordinance approvals, carefully selected operating sites and funding. Seattle and San Francisco are among other cities in the United States striving to open safe spaces.

There are approximately 100 sanctioned SIFs located around the world, including countries in Europe. Concluding from more than a decade of studies, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) said SIFs reduced the rate of addiction, overdose deaths and HIV transmission caused by sharing needles.

The agency references an evaluation study in Barcelona, Spain.

“A fourfold reduction was reported in the number of unsafely disposed syringes being collected in the vicinity from a monthly average of over 13,000 in 2004 to around 3,000 in 2012.”

Contrary to years of quantitative research, naysayers argue that opening SIFs will lure more addicts into cities, normalize drug usage and increase crime. Further, some opponents of the idea perceive drug addiction as an immoral weakness, rather than a pervasive medical issue.

We can’t begin to eradicate the problem unless a shift in perspective is made about the complexities of addiction, including outside factors such as economic inequality.

It does not take long for new Humboldt residents to realize there is a drug problem in this area. On the other hand, locals are very much aware.

Treatment centers and services help to a degree, but the truth is the rate of overdose deaths in Humboldt is still above average in California.

“Of the nearly 340 accidental deaths recorded by the county between 2010 and 2015,” Will Houston of Eureka Times-Standard said, “nearly two-thirds were caused by overdoses, according to [Humboldt County] Coroner’s Office data.”

A reevaluation of the costs and benefits of supervised injection sites may prove to be a worthwhile investment for the future of Humboldt.

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