Supervised drug injection sites: Is NYC right?
- On November 20, 2021, New York City announced the opening of the first government-approved supervised drug injection site in the US. OPC’s are “safe places where people who use drugs can receive clean needles, medical care and be connected to social services as well as treatment for addiction.”
- Mayor Bill DeBlasio said, “After exhaustive study, we know the right path forward to protect the most vulnerable people in our city. [...] Overdose prevention centers are a safe and effective way to address the opioid crisis.”
- Opioids are illegal drugs that include heroin and fentanyl, and prescription meds, oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, and others.
- NYC Health reported that there were 2,062 overdose deaths in New York City in 2020 compared to 1,497 in 2019. In 85% of overdose deaths, opioids were involved, fentanyl being the most common substance.
- From 1999 to 2019, almost 500,000 people died from opioid overdose according to the CDC.
New York City plans to implement a forward-thinking strategy by setting up supervised drug injection sites. Nations like Canada, France, and Australia have already utilized these sites to combat the dangers of drug abuse, especially when unmonitored. The sites are not intended to convince sober people to become addicts but instead to prevent unneeded deaths.
These sites would most likely engage in needle exchange programs, assuring that no blood infections or diseases are passed. Over 100,000 people died from drug overdoses last year in America, and over a million people worldwide die per year due to unsafe injections; these sites can at the very least cut these numbers down, which would symbolize progress. These safe injection sites would be able to facilitate new needles and swap out dirty needles to drug users, also reducing needles left around the city.
The sites would have medics on-site in the case of an overdose. Prescription-strength medicines like Narcan can be available to spray into one's nose in the case of an emergency overdose. Instead of lying unattended for hours, someone that has overdosed can be rushed to the hospital immediately.
While it is not meant to encourage drug use, it provides people a safe environment to perform an act that would be done regardless. Rather than injecting drugs in public on the streets of New York City, the act can be isolated and controlled. Private drug use also encourages the distribution of drugs in private communities, which serves as a serious threat to them. However, the idea of setting up safe injection sites benefits everybody involved.
Given NYC Mayor de Blasio stating these drug prevention centers are an effective way to address America’s drug crisis is logically like trying to reduce burglaries by keeping all the doors unlocked. Despite de Blasio’s claims, these drug centers are not an effective way to address the opioid crisis. You don't fix problem behavior by condoning it, especially while using taxpayer money, which will go to funding the salaries of professionals required to run the centers around the clock as well as all the supplies required for such a center.
Taxpayer money like this could be better spent on education and prevention measures, not poor policies that unintentionally incentivize dangerous and addictive behavior. Further, according to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, the drug injection sites violate the federal Controlled Substances Act. The act states in part that knowingly opening or maintaining any place for distributing or using a controlled substance is illegal. City-sponsored drug injection sites would definitionally meet that description.
Proponents of such sites like to point to Canada as a model. But data shows supervised drug sites have not made things better but worse by also significantly increasing trash, crime, and disorder. 'In Alberta, public health authorities released a bombshell report that showed the sites did not reduce overall overdose deaths or opioid-related emergency calls. And they led to an increase in crime, discarded needles and social disorder in surrounding neighborhoods,' said writer Christopher Rufo, debunking the belief that supervised 'safe drug sites' are safe or effective.
Oftentimes, these policies aim to solve a problem with taxpayer-funds that actually furthers the problem. History shows that even after enough time producing data disproving the effectiveness of these sorts of policies, politicians will continue advocating for them anyway.