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OPINION: Safe Injection Sites are a necessity

California Governor Jerry Brown denies AB 186, this must be reversed
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California Governor Jerry Brown denies AB 186, this must be reversed

Governor Jerry Brown has just rejected the recently proposed bill, AB 186, that would approve entities in the city and county of San Francisco to operate overdose prevention programs for adults, including safe injection sites.

This is a dire mistake and needs to be immediately reversed.

Why should you care that a safe place for people to shoot up drugs was denied? Drug overdoses are the leading cause of unintentional deaths worldwide, according to ResearchGate.

The Centers of Disease Control estimated 72,000 people died last year from overdosing. Safe injection sites can reduce not only deaths, but the stigmas that are attached to drug addicts.

Both the American Medical Association and the American Society of Addiction Medicine define addiction under the standard disease model that is used for any other disease. They say—like diabetes, cancer or heart disease—addiction is caused by a combination of environmental, biological and behavioral factors.

Why then do we continue to shame, guilt and dehumanize people who are suffering from addiction? We don’t throw people in prison for injecting insulin to stabilize their diabetes. So why then do we criminalize addicts instead of treating them medically?

America is still in a war with drugs, which ironically supplies the very opiates our government leaders say are destroying our country.

A study by the Canadian Family Physician found that safe injection sites lower mortality rate, decreases ambulance calls for treating overdoses, and decreases infections such as HIV and Hepatitis C.

The study said there are currently 120 safe injection sites in 12 countries around the world and concluded that all of them have positive impacts for the addicts using their services and the community around them.

“Studies from other countries have shown that supervised injection facilities reduce the number of overdose deaths, reduce transmission rates of infectious disease, and increase the number of individuals initiating treatment for substance use disorders without increasing drug trafficking or crime in the areas where the facilities are located,” the American Medical Association said.

Governor Brown said he denied the bill because he wasn’t convinced the bill would lead to drug users getting treatment they need to get clean.

His assumption doesn’t make sense and isn’t supported by any evidence. The bill itself says it will “provide access or referrals to substance use disorder treatment services, medical services, mental health services, and social services.” Every safe injection site provides either treatment options or referrals to treatment facilities.

Safe injection sites get misconstrued as being something that condones illegal activities and promotes criminal activities, but this isn’t the case.

Dr. Scott Wiener of Harvard Health Publishing said in his Harvard Health Blog he was against safe injection sites, until he visited a local needle exchange facility and experienced it for himself. He thought it was going to be dirty and unsterile but found it to look like a warm and welcoming living room.

“They are there to help people right when they are open to treatment for substance use disorder. The staff will help connect them to treatment resources, whether it is group therapy or medical treatment like buprenorphine (Suboxone) or methadone,” Dr. Wiener said after his visit.

Safe injection sites are about harm reduction. Not condoning crime. They educate participants on contracting infectious diseases, provide overdose prevention services as well as a clean and hygienic place that is safe and monitored by licensed medical staff that offer help and treatment.

As a clean and sober heroin addict, I know that addicts will continue to use needles regardless of having access to a safe injection site. By not offering safe spaces with available resources to get treatment, the government itself is condoning addict behavior when it should be doing all it can to help its citizens get help.

Governor Brown will now be remembered by addiction specialists and drug advocates as the person in power who didn’t do all he could to help those suffering from addiction.

The research shows safe injection sites work in all 12 countries they operate in. America needs to be the thirteenth.

 

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One Comment

  1. Anonymous Anonymous Tuesday, October 30, 2018

    Many of the needles littering America’s streets are from the Diabetes epidemic affecting growing numbers of children, teens and adults due to the other epidemic…poverty, poor diets and diminishing social services.

    The near-total self-censorship of this fact hands right-wing bigots a wedge issue with which they win election by blaming the victims of a corrupt economy instead of the perpetrators.

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