While it’s not true that New York has, or is planning to legalize heroin, there is a controversial plan that has been proposed by an Upstate New York mayor to provide supervised heroin injection clinics. Ithaca mayor Svante Myrick has proposed a new approach to dealing with the current opiate epidemic, and it involves allowing people to shoot heroin under the supervision of a nurse.
There’s more to his plan, but for many people, the idea of green-lighting heroin use is simply one step closer to legalization and only encourages use. People in support of the program state that the current approach is not working, and it’s time to explore more innovative approaches. Which would focus on diminishing the stigma associated with heroin use. The reality is that people are dying, a lot of people are dying, something has to change.
That’s not going to be easy. Illegal drugs in general are viewed in a negative light, heroin and other IV drugs are probably the most demonized. The image of the “junkie” in the eyes of the general public usually brings to mind a specific level of disgust.
Thanks to the raising of awareness by advocates and the media in general. It is increasingly clear that heroin has gone “mainstream” and thus it has received a lot more attention. The rise in addiction to opiate painkillers who may turn to heroin has created a wave of addicts that don’t fit the mold. A 2013 study stated 8 out of 10 heroin users started out using painkillers. Another key factor has been this presidential race and the fact that candidates have been forced to address this public health crisis.
Rumors Run Rampant
Initial rumors stated that New York had legalized heroin. An article in Empire News, a known satire site, ran a story that stated New York had legalized it, with plans to regulate, tax and even employ distributors. In this fictitious story, the opposition included drug dealers that feared for their business.
This caught attention, and other “news” sites jumped on the bandwagon, reporting similar stories.
The Real Deal
Legalization is not what’s happening here, nor is the plan condoning heroin use. It’s simply acknowledging a health problem that isn’t going to magically disappear, no matter how hard people try to ignore it. People are dying. Jailing users and dealers isn’t working, hasn’t worked in the past, and is likely not going to work in the future.
The plan that Myrick is proposing isn’t just about a safer option for heroin users, it includes sending low-level heroin dealers, who are usually addicts trying to support their habit, and people arrested for other drug-related charges to treatment instead of jail. He is also pushing for programs aimed at teaching at-risk youth job skills and increasing treatment options as part of the plan.
But Will It Work?
A key component is motivating Heroin users to take advantage of the service offered, it can save lives. Medically supervised injection guarantees access to clean needles and facilities, and nurses are on-hand to administer life-saving medication in the event of an overdose. For those who are ready to stop using, access to treatment will be available.
For some, this is an attractive solution. People do recover from heroin addiction with the proper support and treatment. However, so many don’t get the opportunity to because they die from overdose. It happens every day, and right now, those numbers are only going up and the rate of death from drug overdose is rising. It went up 14 percent in 2015. Giving people the option to inject heroin safely results in less deaths from overdose, and hopefully, more individuals will be open to getting help when given the opportunity to seek help. It allows for an intervention or at least someone can speak with them and give them options they may not know about.
Only time will tell if people will use this service, and that may be a moot point if it never comes to fruition. Opponents have already surfaced, such as David Evans, who is an attorney and advisor for Drug Free America.
The majority of opponents believe that this plan is simply a step closer to legalization, and makes it easier for people to use. Their position is that the money and effort would be better spent on creating more treatment centers and education programs.
The plan does offer just that. Increased treatment, better access to treatment, and programs that help educate are all aspects of this proposal. The supervised injection clinics are designed to save lives, in the hopes that addicts will live long enough to make their way to treatment.
Opposition to this plan will continue, only time will tell if it will be approved. The bottom line is that these clinics offer a life-saving solution, is apparently lost on people who are resisting this proposal. At some point, the stigma and shame need to be dropped so people can see this for the health problem it is. Unfortunately, not everyone sees it that way.
If It Goes Through, What Will Happen?
If the mayor’s plan actually gets approved, it will mark a true turning point in America’s “War On Drugs.” This is good news, because what it’s really been is a war on addicts.
No doubt the rest of the United States will be looking at the results of the program very closely. If it can prove itself successful, we’ll likely see at least a few other states follow suit.
Rose Lockinger is passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has traveled all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.
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