The nation I now reside in is famous for its politics, can change quickly in some instances and no one thing fits better into those two categories than the radical shift surrounding how to deal with addicts and illegal drugs.
Though there are a few holdouts, gone are the days when the majority of those in power see people struggling with what is obviously a serious health crisis as a group to be feared and locked away in prison until the end of time. Ted Cruz does not think this way, Bernie Sanders does not think this way and now this sentiment has led to the first-ever “safe injection site” being opened and in operation for those in need in the state of Rhode Island.
As reported by VICE, it is in Providence, painted like a bland dental office and has received no comment on its existence from the Biden administration or the U.S. Attorney in the state as of this column being written. Officials ranging from Jerry Brown in California to the Department of Justice under former President Donald Trump have cast doubt on such places and to be fair, no one wants to see someone abuse their body by putting dangerous substances into it, but, if one digs a little deeper it is easy to see these locations can make a major difference.
As the name does suggest, they are not just some places with a dirty mattress on the floor and a grab one needle, get a second free bin. Staff have materials available for those interested in drug treatment options, naloxone is plentiful to prevent overdoses and in Canada’s Vancouver (home to the first-such facility ever in North America) efforts there have led to prevention of 35 cases of HIV and three deaths every year, according to a 2010 study.
Imagine if these were as widespread in the places ravaged by opioids? Who would still be alive today?
This is not an easy thing to discuss but it is a necessary one. Police in Canada and the United States are tired of dealing with addicts (stories of support and doing things different are just a Google away), prosecuting dealers is in many ways the wiser step and we must also not forget the notion of anyone being capable of redemption. I’ve spoken to addicts and in one instance had to live with one who had a terrible struggle with alcohol and other substances. I could not help him but will be damned if I will stop advocating through my writing for things which could make his life and those of his peers better again.
To do so will benefit us all. A rising tide does truly float all boats.
Top Image: Two people inject heroin. Via Wikimedia Commons.