What Is a Safe Injection Site?
When you are addicted to hard drugs like heroin, opiates, or methamphetamine, oftentimes you end up injecting the drug. I come from a family that has always had addiction issues. My parents were alcoholics, and my brother was a full-blown heroin addict at a young age. I always heard about the dangers of drugs, especially the heavier ones, but I still became a victim myself. I wish safe injection sites had been around during my younger days, or especially before my brother’s overdose death. But still, I traveled the same path as him, into full-blown IV heroin use.
When I first called Find Addiction Rehabs, I didn’t have a lot of hope for myself. I had been addicted to drugs my whole adult life and had no idea how to be sober. Not only did I get clean, but I learned a lot about addiction and the resources that exist out there for others like myself. The people I met in treatment opened me up to a whole new way of thinking about addiction. I gave up all my shame and embraced being in recovery.
I remember the first time I heard about safe injection sites. A friend of mine who was also a heroin user mentioned that in parts of Europe they have places where you can go and inject drugs under medical supervision. It sounded like fantasy to me. The more I looked into it, the more I realized it was a real thing. Harm reduction programs worldwide are becoming more and more widespread. There are many arguments for and against them.
There is a lot of shame involved with drug addiction. I know that for me personally, I hated when people found out I was a drug user. It made me feel dirty. This stigma is the reason so many people stay addicted and are unable to seek help. Drug users rarely open up about their struggles freely. It’s not something people are proud of.
What Is the Purpose Of Safe Injection Sites?
By the time you end up injecting drugs, you have most likely had a long history of addiction. Most people start out with marijuana or a little alcohol here and there. Most individuals don’t get introduced to drugs by needles. Those who have been addicted for a long time are usually closer to rock bottom than those that aren’t. In a lot of cases, people don’t seek help until they hit a really low point.
The typical features of safe injection facilities include a clean needle and a private space for the user to inject. Should there be any complications or potential overdose, there are people there who are trained to intervene medically. Just imagine if these places existed all over. We wouldn’t continue losing our loved ones at such a rapid rate. Overdose deaths could be cut in half.
There is also the potential for data collection. Education and research are the strongest tools we have to combat addiction. If more people were allowed to use safe injection sites, we would be able to gather much more data on addicts, which might help tell a story and offer potential solutions.
The Controversy of Safe Injection Sites
The arguments against safe injection sites usually revolve around people believing that they encourage or tolerate drug abuse. A lot of people in this country still believe that if you use drugs at all, you should be thrown in jail. There is a huge lack of compassion when it comes to addiction which is still very common. Trying to explain a safe injection site to someone who is staunchly anti-drug is usually a difficult conversation.
It’s hard for people to imagine allowing drug addicts a place to go to use drugs. I can understand certain people’s apprehension, especially if they are not educated on drug addiction. However, the reality is that the opiate epidemic is out of control, and people overdose and die every day. There are a lot of people that can be saved. Overdose awareness is something that needs to become more widespread. The worldwide prevalence of safe injection sites should become a lesson to the rest of us in North America.
Unfortunately, people don’t want to see or admit the many issues that exist in this country. One of the big ones is the amount of drug addiction that continues to persist all over. A lot of us don’t want to know or educate ourselves on the problems that are out there. Ignorance is very deadly and is one of the causes of the continuing stigma that gets attached to addicts.
Are Safe Injection Locations Illegal in the US?
Safe injection locations are becoming more of a conversation in the United States. Currently, the legality is tricky. Many have attempted to open safe injection sites only to get shut down by the government. Anytime a safe injection site has been planned, opposition from the community has typically resulted in them never opening. The first government-authorized safe injection site opened in New York City in 2021. This has set a precedent for more sites to potentially open.
Due to the illegality and red tape of opening these places, many people have opened them illegally. There are a lot of people who have gotten very creative in order to do this. A man from Maine named Jesse Harvey opened the “Church of Safe Injection”. He claimed religious freedom protection in order to do so. After his death from an overdose, the church continued to operate as a needle exchange.
Needle exchanges have also become more prevalent. They give addicts the opportunity to obtain clean needles to discourage needle sharing. A lot of infections and medical issues can result from needle sharing. This is what allowed HIV/AIDS to spread so rapidly. When you are in the thick of your addiction, you’re not too concerned with your physical well-being, so you are more likely to share needles with other addicts.
A safe injection site called Safehouse was planned to open in Philadelphia, but due to pressure from the neighborhood, its future was put in jeopardy. The United States Vs. Safehouse became a landmark case. Initially, a judge ruled that they were allowed to open before the decision was overturned. Current forms of safe injection sites in America are usually underground and word of mouth.
Individual Benefits of Safe Injection Programs
Safe injection sites all over the globe have proven to not only give addicts a safe place to inject but have also helped people seek help. It’s not like these places let you shoot up and then kick you to the curb. There is a lot of information available at these places for people interested in recovery. You can’t force people to get clean, but you can certainly give them every opportunity to make that decision for themselves.
The successes and evidence for safe injection use have proven that there is a need for these places. If we continue to educate people who are close-minded on addiction and let people know the benefits, we may be able to change people’s hearts and minds. Addiction is an ugly situation.
No one wants to be an addict. It just happens. Sometimes, people need to put their personal anger and resentment towards drugs and drug addiction aside and be more proactive. Establishing recovery options and resources for addicts is a clear-cut way to help battle addiction. The more we ignore it and throw these people aside, the more this problem will continue.
There has been a lot of great progress made in the way of addiction resources. A lot of recovery programs are started by people who are in recovery themselves. This is always an encouraging sign that you can go from your absolute lowest to helping other people in a similar situation as you.
What Are the Social Effects of Safe Injection Resources?
The idea of normalizing addiction and drug use is touchy for a lot of people. Again, people don’t want to experience the ugliness of addiction and face it in an uncomfortable manner. You can throw addicts in jail, or you can help them. The shaming that exists towards addicts needs to stop if we are going to help more people get clean.
Addictive behavior can be very frustrating. The ways that drugs make people act can be extremely difficult for everyone else to deal with. I know that watching my family spiral out of control due to drug abuse is not fun, and it is often heartbreaking. Sometimes we feel betrayed by these people in our lives. If a loved one steals from us to feed their addiction, we consider them a criminal and in our anger, push them away. This is understandable and yet doesn’t allow for either party to heal.
The only way to help addicts heal is to have some level of understanding of their plight. We cannot kick everyone to the curb and throw them away like garbage. We must listen to these people and give them every opportunity to get clean. The social effects of safe injection sites have proven that society can be more sympathetic and helpful. It’s either that, or we continue to lose a good portion of our next generation to overdoses. To me, the choice seems a simple one.
Eric R. hails from Maine and does extensive work in the field of behavioral health as both a professional writer and passionate advocate for those suffering. From his own personal encounters with mental illness, he speaks to those seeking healthy relief from depression and anxiety and embraces wellness both personally and professionally. After losing friends and family to the darkness of suicide, Eric aims to educate and inform about the nature of treatment and render it accessible for all those seeking a way out of darkness and despair.