Safe Injection Sites

Opioid Crisis

I just watched a report on “safe injection sites” that are legal in Toronto, facilities set up to supervise opioid drug use. For those who don’t know my personal history, the boy I fell madly in love with in high school became an opioid addict and there were many years where his drug use was the most painful piece of my personal struggle… so this is a topic that hits me very deep. There are many people dear to me who have been touched by this struggle, losing loved ones in the same way that I did, whether they passed away in an overdose or are still alive but continuing to live a severely compromised life… loved ones left traumatized by the aftermath.

The news report left me with thoughts I wanted to share on “safe injection sites” and other initiatives to keep drug users alive while they are in the throws of the illness.

First, all lives are worth saving. If there is something that we can do to try and save these lives we must do it. I commend the volunteers that are fighting this fight, donating their time and resources to make this happen. No one can judge what led someone to be an addict, and no one can judge what potential to make the world a better place lays on the other side of the struggle, if they can get there. An addict is worthy of love and care. Period.

Second, the more this crisis is out in the open, the better. The more future generations can SEE and experience the REALITY of this illness, the more likely they are to protect themselves from it.

I have many friends who never tried a drug and I always interviewed them religiously over the years to see why or how that came to be (I wasn’t one of them, to be clear, and I knew enough by college to realize that I didn’t want my kids to follow in my footsteps). There were two overwhelming trends in the answers.

The first was that they had something important to them that they were living for, making disciplined choices for, that kept them away from drugs. Either sports competition or personal goals that made it incompatible for them to take the risk or compromise their performance any given morning so much so that they never took a drug. This doesn’t work for all personality types, though, so just because someone loves their sports or are goal driven and competitive doesn’t mean they will stay away from drugs. But, it helps.

The second overwhelming response was that they knew someone personally or had enough exposure to stories of people losing everything to drugs or alcohol that they NEVER would allow themselves to go near it. Whether it was a cousin, an aunt or uncle, a friend — it didn’t matter how close or far — what matter was that it GOT TO THEM. So to me, the question is how can we get this message to our kids, that when they are hurting or bored or curious or pressured, DRUGS AREN’T WORTH THE RISK.

And, how do we educate parents to be super careful if your kid breaks a bone and gets prescribed painkillers, to educate both them and the patients of the risk of becoming addicted to those painkillers? We are not all equally likely to become a drug addict. Some of us are wired more likely to be a food addict or a sex addict or an internet addict — we all have a natural “go to” distraction when we feel lousy and want to self medicate. But how can we educate the kids and the parents to try and avoid getting to close to the edge of this dangerous cliff?

Having safe injection sites are absolutely moving things in the right direction. When someone is an addict they will get high anywhere, not having a safe place will NEVER stop them from using… so this is just a safety measure with zero down side.

A major upside besides saving lives includes bringing this crisis out more into the open, so people can SEE those who are in the throws of this illness and all that they are losing as they make these choices. Watching an addict interviewed, seeing and hearing how their life is a mess, can REACH kids. Especially when it was just a random, out of nowhere, story/interaction, as opposed to a “planned assembly” at school when kids are likely to roll their eyes and not really listen.

The more this crisis can be in the public eye, the better. No shame, no blame, just honest, open conversation.

I hope our government will follow what other countries are doing and support initiatives like this.

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