Philadelphia, PA - When it comes to substance use disorders (SUD), two things are certain: 1) any treatment is better than no treatment, and 2) you can’t treat a dead person. Sadly, when a person isn’t ready for the currently available types of SUD treatment in this country, the conventional approach is to assume you have to wait until they are ready until they hit some sort of elusive “rock bottom” that wakes them up. But what if while you are waiting for them to “be ready," you lose the chance to help them forever?
Is There Such Thing As Safe Drug Use?
Harm reduction efforts like needle exchanges and supervised injection sites can save lives. These strategies are backed by research but sadly continue to lack political or even industry support in this country. Supervised sites like the proposed Safehouse in Philadelphia would allow people to use drugs purchased elsewhere under medical supervision so that they can be revived if they overdose and also access other health, treatment and housing services. Critics staunchly oppose these “drug dens” claiming they “normalize the use of deadly drugs.” Are they willing to watch another 70,000 people die of a drug overdose this year while they sit on their high horses in opposition?
The stigma of addiction undoubtedly persists even in the current opioid crisis that has touched nearly everyone in some way – our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, friends and family. This stigma is preventing some from seeing the bigger picture, that is, that saving lives is most important.
There is no such thing as safe substance use, but supervised sites at least allow human oversight to prevent people from dying from overdose and provide endless opportunities to get help when a person is ready. Why aren’t we taking a cue from other countries who have already successfully adopted this practice to save lives?