In an attempt to help decrease overdoses on heroin and other illicit substances, a Canadian facility began a program in 2003 which involved the supervised use of such substances. In Sacramento, California, lawmakers are attempting to follow suit and allow individuals who are addicted to heroin, crack, or other drugs to use their substances of choice at facilities that will provide supervision. The clinics where this supervised drug use would take place would also offer medical intervention when needed.
By offering this proposal, the lawmakers are hoping that not only will overdoses be prevented, but that the deaths that can subsequently result from experiencing an overdose will be eliminated as well. Additionally, it is the hope of these lawmakers that offering this kind of supervision would also prevent the transmission of viruses like hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS. Should these facilities come to fruition, they will be the first of their kind in the United States.
Throughout the nation, the cities that have introduced the same proposal include San Francisco, New York City, Seattle, and Ithaca, New York.
As would be expected, however, the development of a facility where individuals who are addicted to drugs can legally consume their substances of choice has caused significant uproar within law enforcement.
Providing individuals with a legal venue for participating in the abuse of their chosen substances does not alleviate the detrimental ramifications that ongoing drug abuse can elicit. While it can help provide individuals with the immediate interventions that they need should an overdose occur, it is not providing them with the treatment interventions that they need in order to put an end to their addictions. Instead, it could actually serve the opposite purpose of encouraging their continued use. It could be viewed as offering them a way to justify their use. Some users may also view it as being somewhat of an incentive to keep using. For example, those who are addicted to heroin may find this type of venue as being advantageous because not only will they be able to use their drug of choice without facing legal repercussion, but they will also be able to use without having to worry about dirty needles or sharing needles with other individuals who may have contractible diseases.
Conversely, an opposing argument that could be made is that, regardless of whether this type of facility is being utilized or not, an individual is going to use anyway. If a person is addicted to heroin, he or she is going to use heroin regardless of whether he or she is at home, on the streets, or in a supervised clinic. But by placing oneself in this type of facility, he or she can benefit from receiving immediate interventions if he or she experiences an overdose, which is something that he or she would not have if heroin was being consumed elsewhere.
Advocates of this proposal express the view that as the heroin and opioid epidemic continues to spread, it is important that addiction be viewed as the disease that it is. They believe that it should be viewed as a healthcare problem, with options for care being offered as opposed to legal ramifications being imposed.
While the arguments on each side of this proposal contain valid viewpoints, it is imperative that individuals realize that the most appropriate way to address the opioid epidemic is by helping individuals who struggle with addictions find access to the treatment that they need to put an end to their substance abuse. If such clinics do come to fruition, it is important that they offer individuals the opportunity to receive addiction treatment services.