Harm Reduction Saves Lives
In other parts of the country and the world, safe injection sites are saving the lives of heroin users. An important part of this harm reduction system is the testing of heroin for fentanyl. The purpose of testing heroin is to ensure that the drug user has real heroin and not deadly, potent fentanyl.
What else happens at a safe injection site?
These sites, in addition to testing heroin, perform many other functions to reduce possible harm to drug users. To prevent the spread of infectious diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis, they offer clean needles. In order to minimize the chance of overdose death, they have Narcan on hand and an attendant to call for help.
Why would we want to provide safe injection sites in our cities?
The purpose of these sites is not only to protect the health and lives of drug users, they also offer an entry into the world of drug-free recovery. By providing educational materials, information, and a message of recovery at the safe injection site, the drug user will have the seed planted in his or her mind that there is a better way to live. When their drugs and money run out, they will know how to get help, such as Suboxone treatment.
If heroin use is illegal, how can cities justify assisting people who are breaking the law?
In the case of drug abuse, we must change our thinking about the issue of law enforcement. If we do not provide harm reduction programs that include things such as heroin testing, the heroin users will still continue using their drug. But instead of being kept relatively safe, they will more likely use dirty needles and take chances with their lives by not having anyone around in case they overdose. If we obsess over enforcing drug laws, we will continue to lose more lives to heroin and street fentanyl.
These are lives worth saving.
Some of the most intelligent and creative individuals have struggled with addiction. While all lives are worth saving, we must think of the heroin user as someone who has made their choice and should not be helped to survive. Addiction is a serious mental health condition that can be treated with medical treatment. We must do our part to keep heroin users safe until they are ready to take the important step of accepting medical care.
Hope for the future.
I hope that we get safe injection sites here. In my city of Fort Lauderdale, I am not aware of any such programs locally. However, there are people overdosing everyday. There are also people getting serious health consequences of IV drug use, including heart disease. I attended the most recent mayoral debate, and drug treatment programs never came up at all. We need to have this conversation. Testing heroin is one simple step that will save many lives.