America has been enmeshed in a war on drugs for decades. From the D.A.R.E. programs of the 1980’s and 1990’s that told kids to “just say no,” to the harsh criminal punishments for everything from marijuana to crack and heroin, the introduction of mandatory sentencing minimums and all the rest – nothing has worked. Now, the nation is in the throes of a problem with opioid addiction that is literally killing thousands of Americans. The entire law enforcement and medical infrastructure is at a loss as body after body is carried out of crack houses and bathrooms around the nation, some with needles still in their arms. There may be a new way to battle this burgeoning problem, though: Safe injection sites.
The nation is now waking up to the fact that if people feel compelled to use drugs, there is little that can stop them. However, we can attempt to make their usage safer. That is where safe injection sites come in. These are sterile, supervised facilities where people can get clean needles, tourniquets, and other supplies to inject their drugs. Most importantly, the sites are staffed with trained personnel who can monitor people as they use drugs. Those who staff these sites are also equipped with a necessary tool: Naloxone. More commonly known as Narcan, the substance that can reverse an opioid overdose and save a life. Here is a short news piece on these sites and how they save lives:
Places like San Francisco, California, New York City, and Philadelphia are now considering bills that allow for safe injection sites. However, the Trump Administration is taking a different approach. The Department of Justice wishes to treat addiction as a criminal offense rather than a medical issue to be managed. To that end, it comes as no surprise that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has come out against the idea in a New York Times op-ed, and the administration has already taken legal action against Philadelphia’s injection site.
Whatever your feeling on these injection sites, we can all likely agree that something major needs to to be done in order to combat this crisis. What we have been doing clearly has not worked, and people are dying daily. Hopefully, minds and hearts continue to open, and lives can be saved and put back together.
Shannon Barber is a progressive queer feminist and budding political scientist. She is passionate about issues of social justice, including but not limited to racial equality, criminal justice reform, pro-Black politics, and LGBTQ equality. She hopes to change the world, one mind at a time.