By Matthew Cardoza
There has been a silent crisis in this country that has gone on for decades, one which has claimed the lives of thousands of people. It is an insidious disease that leaves behind stray needles in public areas and consumes the lives of our loved ones until they finally succumb to it. It has affected many people in this country from California to Virginia. This crisis is known as the opioid epidemic.
The problem, according to the National Capital Poison Center, occurred in three waves. The first began in 1991, when doctors were prescribing too many painkillers to their patients. By 1999, this led 86 percent of those prescribed using opioids for a non-cancerous purpose. The second wave occurred in 2010, when a spike in heroin abuse took place as access to painkillers became limited. The last wave started in 2013, was when a large amount of people died due to overdose caused by synthetic opioids such as Fentanyl. This problem has been built up for the past two decades and has no quick fix as it affects people in different ways and stems from a myriad of issues.
In recent years, there have been many proposed solutions to help curtail the epidemic. One such solution lies in San Francisco, where the state of California and the city government this past summer passed the measure AB 186. This bills allows San Francisco to implement safe injection sites in various neighborhoods in the city.
Safe injections sites (SIS) are centers where people who are addicted to opioids can go to safely inject their own drugs under medical supervision. It’s not a new concept, as these types of places have existed in Canada and in some European countries to reported success. Currently, there is a prototype SIS located at Glide Memorial Church on Ellis Street. City officials, like Mayor London Breed, have visited the site and were given an explanation as to how the patients will utilize the facility.
The initiative has already drawn the ire of the Trump administration as they stand on a drug policy that contradicts the SIS initiative. Some in the government have already made their opinions on this matter public, like when like Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein argued against the initiative in a New York Times Op-Ed. “[Safe injection sites] are not the way to end the opioid crisis,” he wrote. “Americans struggling with addiction need treatment and reduced access to deadly drugs. They do not need a taxpayer-sponsored haven to shoot up.”
Implementing these facilities citywide would only attract more homeless people, which will then create more homeless encampments and more unnecessary issues for the city. We have enough homeless people occupying the sidewalks and BART terminals. We do not need any more people crowding these safe injection sites looking for another place to shoot up drugs.
I see safe injection sites as a noble gesture, but one that falls short of actual effective rehabilitation. While I do understand that addiction is a complex issue that takes years to fully overcome, it doesn’t help the addict if they still have a way to utilize the drugs that are slowly killing them. We shouldn’t be enabling this kind of behavior, instead we should be taking steps to help the addict rid themselves from the desire of opioids. These facilities should be designed to help wean off an addict away from their needles, so that they can become functioning members of society once again.