The United States is currently engulfed in one of the largest and longest waged wars in its history, the drug war. For decades drugs have poured into the United States and have affected the lives of hundreds of thousands. One of the deadliest type of drugs, opioids, in 2017 alone caused more than 70,000 deaths.
In late 2017 President Donald Trump declared that the opioid crisis was a National Public Health Emergency and initiated a plan to assist those affected and attempt to stop drugs from pouring into the United States. Now, more than a year later, that crisis is still raging on; in fact, it is so bad that in Philadelphia, local officials are considering legal injection sites.
The sites would include booths for addicts to inject themselves, all while a medical staff would be on standby to prevent overdoses. The addicts could bring in their own drugs, while the site would issue needles and tourniquets. The plan from Philadelphia, is not ideal, in fact, it’s the opposite. However, the sheer amount of persons affected by the opioid crisis alone have left city officials considering extreme options.
Further, a synthetic version of opioids, fentanyl, is aiding in the crisis across city streets of the United States. Fentanyl is known to be 80-100 times stronger than opioids, and just last month Federal Officials discovered more than 254 pounds of the drug hidden in the floor compartments of a truck loaded with cucumbers attempting to cross the Southern border. In addition, the truck also contained 395 pounds of methamphetamine.
The bust was the largest in US history and was enough fentaynl to kill over 115 million people. On the streets many drug users do not know that they are in fact purchasing the synthetic version, which has also lead to a drastic increase in overdose deaths.
As the crisis rages on and officials are running out of options to stop drugs from pouring in, the idea of a legal injection site, isn’t too far fetched.
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Vancouver, home of Canada’s drug epidemic, has operated a legal injection site called Insite for nearly 16 years. The center has helped in successfully bringing down the number of overdose deaths in Vancouver and serves as an example to help addicts safely carry out their addiction.
However, the idea of such was once dismissed as radical and outlandish, but at this time, officials are continually running into legal obstacles and objections, all while the body count keeps stacking higher.
Philadelphia, one of the many cities hit hardest by the epidemic experienced 1,100 overdose deaths last year, all while housing one of the most active heroin markets in the country.
“All of these [facilities] have had a similar result: they’ve lowered the number of overdoses associated with the immediate area,” said Jose Benitez, a co-founder of Safehouse and executive director of Prevention Point, a needle exchange program. “We see the same thing happening in Philadelphia.”
While the idea does pose a serious risk and actually doesn’t thwart the drug epidemic, it does offer relief to those who are currently battling addiction.