Recently, Delegate Dan Morhaim has introduced a bill that would allow for illicit drug use in a legal and sanitary “safe” area. The controversial practice has been practiced in numerous countries around the world, but has been met with resistance in the United States. We felt it was a topic worth exploring as an alternative manner to save lives from heroin addiction.
It’s no secret that Maryland has been struggling with a heroin problem in its recent history. Opioid related fatalities are on the rise, with more than 1,000 deaths in 2015. Maryland has seen a 47% increase in heroin related deaths from 2013 – 2015, and a 142% increase in fentanyl related deaths in the same time frame.
With the shocking number of deaths by overdose, it may be time to begin thinking outside of the traditional box, and that is where these safe sites come into play. These facilities will allow recreational drug use without facing criminal charges while also harboring a staff to prevent fatal overdoses, leading to overall safer drug consumption. The users will take drugs under the supervision of a trained professional and staff in order to prevent any fatalities.
These safe facilities do not stop at merely preventing users from dying from overdoses. They also provide sterile injections supplies, counseling services, testing for STDs, and education for the users about safe injections practices and overdose protection.
While all these services can save lives, it is important to remember that these safe facilities do not promote substance abuse. In fact, their mission is to assist the user with their battle against addiction and to save lives.
Even though Delegate Morhaim himself noted that these facilities are not pro substance abuse, there is still a stigma surrounding the safe areas. Many people believe it will only encourage the drug user to continue with their addiction. Other people believe it will increase the crime rate in the area. While these concerns are understood, all statistics from the 87 facilities around the world disprove these claims.
Statistically, there has not been one recorded fatality in any safe room in any country. The evidence provided by studying these facilities also shows that the crime rate is not affected at all by their presence, and that they bring an immense value towards saving lives. In Vancouver, for example, a safe facility had over 1.8 million visits by 12,000 individuals. During these visits, there were 221 reported overdoses with no fatalities. Chances are if these users were left to their own devices, they would not have survived their overdose. That is 221 lives that were saved thanks to a safe area.
While these centers are extremely controversial, it is important to begin thinking outside of the box in order to help fight against the growing heroin epidemic in Maryland. With more and more deaths racking up every year, the traditional methods of heavy law enforcement, while certainly helpful to some, may not be the sole answer any longer. This is the type of thinking Delegate Morhaim claims has brought him to believe in these facilities.
Regardless of where you stand on the safe area’s effectiveness, please remember that an effective battle plan against drugs must include proper rehabilitation. If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction, please do not hesitate to give us a call.