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Global Commission on Drug Policy Suggests Harm Reduction and Decriminalization

Global Commission on Drug Policy Suggests Harm Reduction and Decriminalization

Author: Justin Mckibben

The Global Commission on Drug Policy (GCDP) is an international institution of global leaders and intellectuals working to help study and inform initiatives on addressing drug use all around the world. This think tank offers recommendations concerning drug use and its consequences for societies across the globe.

The GCDP consists of members from various nations, including but not limited to:

  • The United States of America
  • The United Kingdom
  • India
  • France
  • Greece
  • Spain
  • Mexico
  • Nigeria
  • Canada

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter wrote an op-ed in The New York Times explicitly endorsing the recommendations of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, and the group has released various reports over the years focusing on the efforts to curb the spread of drug abuse.

Recently the GCDP released a position report on the North American opioid epidemic. In this report, the commission issues recommendations that appear to endorse the expansion of harm reduction techniques to battle the ongoing crisis.

The Turning Point for America

According to the GCDP’s new report, North America is at a turning point in the way that drug addiction is viewed. This is not too much of a surprise, considering now more than ever there has been a push for a more compassionate perspective on drug use and addiction. America now finds itself in a unique position where the stigma that has so long been attached to addiction is starting to be abandoned, and more progressive action is being taken.

Now the Global Commission on Drug Policy believes national policymakers should take advantage of this unique opportunity to reduce opioid-related deaths through harm reduction. In the report the authors state:

“While in recent years media and politicians have been more open to viewing addiction as a public health problem, leadership is needed to turn this into an urgent and commensurate response to the crisis,”

One way that the Global Commission on Drug Policy ideals clashes with that of the Trump administration, currently steering drug policy in America is that the GCDP does not endorse the old policies of the War on Drugs.

GCDP vs War on Drugs

Back in June of 2011, the GCDP stated:

“The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world.”

Again, this recent report echoes that sentiment, saying that attempting to cut off the opioid supply is not the answer. The new report notes how this approach has been tried before, as the first reactions to the opioid epidemic were to limit prescriptions and to introduce pills that were harder to manipulate.

The report goes on to note that this response drove people to use cheaper and often much more potent street drugs instead of prescription pills. Fentanyl is one of the worst synthetic opioids to contribute to the outbreak of overdoses and deaths across the country.

The Global Commission on Drug Policy says cutting off the supply of opioids into the country cannot be effectively executed until after supportive measures are put in place. This means supporting not only both people battling addiction but also people with chronic pain. The report insists:

“The aim is to achieve the right balance in regulation to provide effective and adequate pain care, while minimizing opportunities for misuse of these medications.”

To reduce the harmful impacts of opioids, the commission calling for the acceptance and implementation of harm reduction strategies.

The Global Commission on Drug Policy Suggests Harm Reduction

So if they are saying that the War on Drugs did not work, and neither will bulking up borders, then what will?

Well, according to the GCDP, harm reduction is the right move. The new report calls on American lawmakers to promote programs like:

  • Naloxone Distribution and Training

As the opioid overdose antidote, Naloxone is an invaluable tool to have in the fight against the opioid epidemic in America, but the price for the drug continued to skyrocket as the epidemic got worse. Making it more available could give access to and train people with life-saving medication to thousands or even millions more.

Safe locations where IV drug users can trade old, contaminated needles for new, sterile needles to help prevent the spread of blood-borne illness like HIV.

Facilities where drug users can go to use their drugs with sterile equipment safely, reducing the number of overdose deaths by providing a place free of punishment for them to use with medical emergency resources on site.

  • Drug Checking

These kinds of programs would allow for users to check their drugs for the presence of any unknown substances it may have been diluted with. For example, most fentanyl users do not know they are using fentanyl.

Decriminalizing Drugs in America

In another aspect of the report, GCDP also makes a much more revolutionary and more radical suggestion that many may consider qualifying as harm reduction: decriminalization.

The report states:

“The Global Commission on Drug Policy also calls for the elimination of illicit drug markets by carefully regulating different drugs according to their potential harms. The most effective way to reduce the extensive harms of the global drug prohibition regime and advance the goals of public health and safety is to get drugs under control through responsible legal regulation.”

With this philosophy in mind, the GCDP made two more drastic recommendations:

  • End the criminalization and incarceration of people who use drugs nation-wide in Canada and the United States.
  • Allow and promote pilot projects for the responsible legal regulation of currently illicit drugs including opioids.

The idea is that by decriminalizing drugs, they can bypass criminal organizations and ultimately replace the current black market.

“Do not pursue such offenses so that people in need of health and social services can access them freely, easily, and without fear of legal coercion,”

We have begun to see a watered-down variation of this kind of strategy with many Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PAARI) programs, where law enforcement is helping addicts get into treatment instead of arresting them when they ask for help.

Better Treatment Research

The report insists that more research is necessary in a few critical areas in order the effectively address the opioid crisis and the overall drug problem in America.

One of the key points of research the GCDP proposes is for finding the most effective treatments for addiction, specifically to prescription opioids. In addition, the report shows support for medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and opioid substitution therapy (OST) as a means to preserve life to assist in the recovery process. While these programs are met with some of the same contentions as safe injection sites or decriminalization, the commission seems adamant about using harm reduction to keep people alive long enough to get better.

Michel Kazatchkine, a doctor and commission member, said in a recent interview:

“Repression is harmful. Wherever repressive policies are in place, people will not be in the best condition to access services.”

While he and other commission members are in no way naïve to the fact there is no way decriminalization will happen at the federal level soon in the U.S., they remain hopeful that states or cities will make decisions which don’t require federal approval, or for which they are willing to enter to fight with the federal process.

Overall, the hope of the GCDP is that these suggestions, coming from a group of world leaders fully invested in understanding the issue, will convince American and Canadian lawmakers to take a progressive approach to the crisis.

What could some of these changes mean for those trying to recover from opioid abuse? How could some of these ideas change the way addiction treatment operates within America?

One thing is for certain, in fighting opioid addiction, whether as a society, as a family or as an individual, there needs to be compassion and action. It takes courage and it takes a degree of uncertainty. But with the right resources, there is hope for a greater future. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.

CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Officials Push for Safe Injection Sites in Boston at City Council

Officials Push for Safe Injection Sites in Boston at City Council
Author: Justin Mckibben

For some time now government officials in different states across America have been pushing for the implementation of safe injection sites in their neighborhoods to combat the perpetual rise of opioid addiction and overdose death. This time last year there were proposals in New York, California and Washington D.C. to open such facilities. With the rising rates of overdose and death more officials have asked for the opportunity to at least examine the potential impact of safe injection sites. Now, officials are pushing for safe injection sites in Boston.

This request didn’t come lightly, either. The Massachusetts Medical Society is actually imploring state officials to open a safe injection site within the City of Boston, with desperate hope of curbing the numbers of casualties.

Safe Injection Presented to City Council

The Boston city council members heard arguments both for and against safe injection sites in Boston, and the debate is on as to what to do with the information.

Advocates for safe injection sites in Boston believe such facilities save lives by making emergency medical treatment immediately available. Dr. Henry Dorkin with the Massachusetts Medical Society supports the idea, stating:

“In fact, if you don’t have them in a facility with Narcan readily available, they’ll die very quickly,”

Just to clarify, safe injection sites are secure locations with medical staff available where addicts can use heroin under medical supervision. It provides what could be considered neutral ground where the drug user will not have to worry about being charged with criminal possession, while also having a first line of defense against overdose. Safe injection sites do not provide drugs, they simply provide the space and with some clean needles are also available.

Probably one of the most popular examples used by advocates of safe injection sites has been the famous facility in Vancouver, Canada that helped save dozens of lives. City Councilors Anissa Essaibi-George and Frank Baker, who requested the hearing, point out that the safe injection sites in Vancouver reduced fatal opioid overdoses by 35%.

This kind of decrease in overdose fatalities would make a huge difference in Massachusetts. The state Department of Public Health says the state’s top cause of accidental death so far this year is opioid overdose. The department says an average of 6 people a day in Massachusetts die from opioid overdoses in 2017, making. A 35% decrease would make a tremendous improvement on the community.

Anti-Injection Sites Argument

Opponents of safe injection sites in Boston say that these facilities do nothing to address the true problem, which is addiction. Sue Sullivan of the Newmarket Business Association states:

“It’s an existence. We need to figure out how we’re going to save these people and it’s not safe injection sites,”

Looking at the Vancouver statistics was apparently not enough to convince the entire city council. One feature of safe injection sites is that they often have a team of treatment professionals who encourage addicts who visit the facility to get treatment. They provide information about safe medical detox and other levels of care to those who are interested in getting help. However, one city council member, Frank Baker, states:

“263,000 visits a year by 6,500 individuals. And it has only 404 referrals to onsite detox,”

Some officials believe that this measure of harm reduction isn’t enough to really solve the issue without getting more people into drug addiction treatment and off the streets.

Possible Benefits of Safe Injection Sites in Boston

The primary function of safe injection sites is to preserve life. The idea is that while it may not be a lasting solution, it is a way to save lives. Safe injection sites allow people struggling to have the opportunity to survive their addiction long enough to get treatment. Beyond slowing down drug related deaths, safe injection sites in Boston could offer a number of other positive outcomes.

In May of last year we also covered a report titled Alternatives to Public Injection in which experts with experience operating supervised injection facilities (SIFs) shared data that shows:

  1. People who use SIFs take better care of themselves
  2. SIFs reduce or eliminate addicts needle sharing
  3. Ultimately, participants reduce their drug use all together
  4. SIF participants gain access to other medical and social services
  5. Participants have resources to seek addiction treatment
  6. SIFs do not increase drug use in the surrounding area
  7. Crime and public disturbances decrease in the areas around these programs
  8. There has not been a SINGLE overdose death in any of these programs over many years of operation

Rates of people visiting safe injection sites attending treatment may not be as good as they could be. However, the fact that they have no experienced a single overdose death at these facilities is an incredible improvement.

Are we going to see safe injection sites in Boston? Are more American cities going to consider this option? Is having a safe injection site a good idea?

While getting the right kind of safe and effective addiction treatment can create lasting change, preventing the ongoing deaths from drugs is also a worthy cause. Holistic healing programs are designed to address every aspect of addiction. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.

CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Police Will Give Free Heroin to Addicts to Fight Crime

Police Will Give Free Heroin to Addicts to Fight Crime

Author: Justin Mckibben

That’s right, you read the headline correctly. Law enforcement could soon be giving heroin to addicts, for free, in an attempt to fight addiction. While harm reduction is an admirable concept to preserve the lives of those suffering from addiction, this is a hard bit to chew.

Various countries are working to drastically reform drug policies. Some states in America have even started to pursue expanding access to naloxone, needle exchange programs and even safe injection sites. Other countries around the world have gone to new lengths in decriminalization, while others go to new extremes in the War on Drugs. Yet, despite all this variations of progress, giving away heroin seems like the most abstract idea yet.

Police in Durham, a city in northeast England, are planning to offer free heroin to drug users. Why? They say the objective is actually to reduce both crime and addiction.

The Free Heroin Plan?

Durham Police and Crime Victims Commissioner Ron Hogg spoke recently on his logic for providing heroin to addicts. In his statement he said,

“The aim would be to enable people who have become addicted to heroin to follow a program that would stabilize their addiction in a controlled environment, and reduce their dependency on heroin until they stop taking it,”

The idea isn’t just to give addicts free heroin and let them loose, but to create a very distinctive atmosphere of support in hopes of inspiring recovery. The proposed free heroin program would work in combination with a traditional substance abuse support program, and the users would be monitored on use and tapered off. According to the Independent newspaper, the free heroin clinics could be established in the Durham area before the end of this year.

What do Police Think of Free Heroin?

It seems the police department is hoping that if drug users have access to free heroin then they won’t have to resort to crime to support their addiction. While they are aware of how this idea might seem strange, the idea is that they may be able to further decrease all other devastating results of addiction on the community. Crime, spread of disease, overdose death and more.

According to the Independent newspaper, Durham Chief Constable Mike Barton also says the initiative would take away from drug dealers’ profits. With drug users having access to free heroin they hope it will cripple the trade on the illicit drug market. Barton states:

“We need to get over our moral panic about giving people heroin as part of a treatment plan,”

“Our primary concern is to prevent crime. If we’ve got people who are addicted to Class A drugs committing crime, it makes good sense to get that person off drugs.”

Commissioner Hogg also goes on to say,

“The aim of the initiative is to save the lives of addicts, shut down drug dealers and reduce acquisitive crime,”

“It would also reduce demand on police time, and the courts, and I believe it should also help lower the prison population.”

The impact of heroin on the U.K. should of course be noted as a cause for desperate measures.

  • 2015-2016 statistics show there were 149,807 people receiving treatment for opioid use disorder in England
  • Between 2012 and 2015, heroin-related deaths doubled from 579 to 1,201 deaths in England and Wales

So of course, as the opiate epidemic rattles countries all over the world, a few have decided to react in very different ways. Apparently, some parts of the U.K. are moving toward a very, very liberal stance.

Fix Rooms and Safe Injection Sites

England is not alone on this. Let us also note that Switzerland has actually offered a free heroin maintenance program since 1994. Other governments in the U.K. have approval for similar safe injection initiatives, including:

  • Scotland
  • Australia
  • Germany
  • France
  • Switzerland
  • The Netherlands

Last October, Glasgow, Scotland became the first city in the U.K. to approve plans for “fix rooms”. These are sites where people will be provided medical-grade heroin and clean syringes with the intent to contain the heroin epidemic.

The free heroin program in Switzerland began in Zurich. It is now credited with decreasing crime in the area. Information indicates this program has expanded to 23 clinics. But it isn’t just free heroin in these locations. These “fix rooms” also provide counseling and support.

Harm Reduction… or Reorganizing?

Now, we have to ask, is this as crazy as it sounds? While the police in these areas seem to be openly admitting that giving away free heroin is indeed enabling, they seem very convinced that things have gotten so bad this is the best they can hope for at the moment. Again, they are hoping to contain the fallout of heroin abuse in their communities and provide information and treatment resources. The idea sounds pretty intense, but some would say desperate times call for desperate measures.

So is this harm reduction, or just reorganizing? Is this tactic set to prevent even more suffering and destruction, or is it a feeble attempt to make some semblance of order out of the chaos of the opiate crisis?

From a personal opinion, as an addict in recovery, I can say I honestly don’t know. It sounds incredibly dangerous and almost irresponsible to say that law enforcement will provide free heroin. Yet, I have to try and understand their logic; that it might be able to prevent some crime. It might take a nice piece of money out of drug dealer pockets, and it might preserve lives long enough to convince them to get treatment. Then again, an addict like me might just take advantage of the free heroin program and get more off the street while also getting free, government funded drugs too.

Past data might show some support to this innovation. I guess we will just have to wait and see what becomes of this. Until then, there should always be an emphasis on the possibility of effective and comprehensive treatment. Even with the free heroin program, the idea is to get people the treatment they need.

We want to know what YOU think.

Addiction and drug abuse have become relevant in every aspect of American life. Police, politicians, educators and community leaders are trying to create radical changes in perspective. Not every perspective is easy to understand, but the common goal is inspiring lasting recovery. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free.

   CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

New York City Considering Safe Heroin Injection Sites

New York City Considering Safe Heroin Injection Sites

Author: Justin Mckibben

Back in February of this year the mayor of Ithaca, New York began pursuing a plan that would establish safe heroin injection sites in Ithaca in an attempt to battle the opiate epidemic raging across the country. This controversial harm reduction tactic is getting brought up a lot more lately. Other states are also looking into starting up similar contingencies for their citizens. Now, the Big Apple is set to spend quite a bit of money and resources investigating the merits of safe heroin injection sites. That’s right, New York City is now taking a closer look at how safe heroin injection sites operate, wondering if it might be a decent plan after all.

Talking about the tab…

One of the big things people seem to be focused on right now is the money. Some believe providing addicts with a clean, medically supervised facility to use is a waste. They believe that what it will be doing is promoting heroin addiction while enabling it, all at the city’s expense.

So far, the tab is already pretty steep. The City Council has announced it will be allocating $100,000 to study the practice. This money will go to the Health Department for a nine-month study to determine whether it makes sense to open safe heroin injection facilities.

Shouldn’t be much of a surprise that these desperate times have called for such desperate measures in New York City. The study comes as the Big Apple is still reeling from a record 937 fatal drug overdoses in 2015, a 66% increase since 2010. With 2016 coming closer to the end, it is a wonder if this will be another record year for the five boroughs. Overdose death rates are a huge factor in a lot of new movements for change.

What are safe heroin injection sites?

Safe heroin injection sites are facilities where intravenous drug users are permitted to use the drug intravenously under medical supervision. The sites offer a place where addicts can use without fear of arrest, in case of an overdose. The idea is to have staff trained and available to be able to save lives. At the same time, the hope is to reduce other risks associated with intravenous drug use.

Several safe heroin injection sites already exist in dozens of cities outside the United States. Should America be next? Some of the countries who use this practice include:

  • Canada
  • Europe
  • Australia

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito commented saying,

“It’s been done and been implemented in other areas [of the world], so we just want to look up what the viability would be in New York,”

This seems like a pretty fair response to the epidemic; trying to explore and educate officials on more options that could help. And beyond reducing overdose deaths, HIV and viral hepatitis transmission, safe heroin injection sites work to connect addicts with drug-treatment options. So it isn’t just about giving them a safe place to get high, but also making them feel safe and supported whenever they try to get help.

Conservatives in opposition

But of course there is a great deal of opposition. Michael Long, the state Conservative Party Chairman, claims the $100,000 could-

“- be put to better use than sending a message that it is OK to use intravenous drugs as long as you use a government-sanctioned place.”

However, the reality is that the money is being utilized in a way that serves it’s initial purpose. $5.6 million is already set aside in the city budget to combat AIDS. The $100,000 for the safe heroin injection site study is coming from that bulk of finances.

So while surely some would not be all for spending the tax-payers dollar on researching “legal drug dens” the truth is the money is going somewhere that could make a huge difference to the effect of what tax-payers originally intended it for.

The safe heroin injection study

According to a council memo, as far as the actual study itself, the researchers will review data that pertains to:

  • Health conditions and disease transmission related to heroin and other injected drugs
  • Evaluate existing supervised injection facilities
  • Assess legal issues
  • Input from select “city officials and community experts”

This isn’t the first radical idea on this side of the country. Seattle is also considering safe heroin injection sites. Earlier this year, Boston opened a facility where addicts can use under safe medical observation. However these people have to inject drugs elsewhere. This doesn’t seem like as good of a plan, because it’s basically asking for addicts to use and drive. Still, it is some kind of innovation in a different direction.

Preventing of death and the spread of disease is vital. As the death rate escalates in relation to heroin addiction and infections caused by intravenous drug use, prevention is increasingly important. These programs may be controversial, but the cost of losing lives is a lot higher than spending some money looking into alternatives.

Beyond harm reduction, there is real recovery. Real recovery begins with effective and innovative treatment. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call now. You are not alone.

   CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Stigma VS Fact: Supervised Injection Facilities

Stigma VS Fact: Supervised Injection Facilities

Author: Justin Mckibben

I know what you’re thinking… but just set aside that thought for a second. Many of us know the flaws of contempt prior to investigation. So I ask of you to consider the following, and do some investigation yourself, to see what impact this whole idea might have.

You may remember, because I’ve written on the subject of safe injection sites many times, that last September the Harm Reduction Coalition convened with law enforcement and public health experts on an international level to deliberate on the possibility of supervised injection facilities helping to reduce the opiate addiction crisis and overdose death outbreak in American. Since then, officials in several states in America have proposed the implementation of supervised injection facilities, including:

In this discussion, reports were presented with some of the pros and cons of the concept, and with the press and politics focusing so heavily on addressing the epidemic status of heroin and opiate abuse I wanted to revisit the conversation with some information presented. I bring it up again because I have had a few conversations about these facilities; people seem split on the issue and many are misinformed.

What a Supervised Injection Facility IS

Supervised injection facilities (SIFs) are legally sanctioned locations where people who use intravenous drugs can inject pre-obtained drugs under medical supervision.

For those of you who keep implying it makes heroin legal, supervised injection facilities do NOT sell heroin to users OR make heroin legal. It is simply a place where people who are already using can safely use.

They are designed to reduce the health and societal problems associated with intravenous drug use, and have been shown to reduce injection-related risks and harms like:

  • Vein damage
  • Overdose
  • Transmission of diseases like HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C

Public Injection Alternatives

Now when it comes to drug abuse and recovery from addiction, there is no cookie cutter answer and no express-lane (in my experience) to lasting sobriety. There are numerous programs put in place to provide different treatment alternatives, and one genre of treatment that has been making some come back is harm reduction- which includes supervised injection facilities and needle exchange programs.

As part of the consultation there was a report titled Alternatives to Public Injection in which experts with experience operating supervised injection facilities shared how such services were implemented in their countries. These areas included:

The experts also enclosed in the report how effective supervised injection facilities could be as an alternative solution to public health crises that involve injection drug use. Over the course of this committee there were other entities including:

  • Open Society Foundation
  • Foundation for AIDS Research

From these reports and discussions there came some relevant information that could be crucial to American policymakers. These points might also cause the everyday skeptic to pause and wonder if these kinds of initiatives can’t do some good.

  1. People who use SIFs take better care of themselves
  2. They reduce or eliminate their needle sharing
  3. Ultimately, participants reduce their drug use all together
  4. SIF participants gain access to other medical and social services
  5. Participants have resources to seek addiction treatment
  6. SIFs do not increase drug use in the surrounding area
  7. Crime and public disturbances decrease in the areas around these programs
  8. There has not been a SINGLE overdose death in any of these programs over many years of operation

That last one… that is an especially impressive statistic with all things considered! The simple fact that these sites, which are not yet in America, have been able to treat overdoses and eliminate deaths should at least have people thinking twice about supervised injection facilities.

Long Way to Go

The fact of it all is America has a long road ahead before we ever get to a place where this is a popular idea. Taking into account how many people on the outside of addiction looking in still only have an understanding based on stigma and fear, the reality is that it would be incredibly difficult to get this idea off the ground and make it work because every country in so far operating SIFs have stressed in order to successfully implement supervised injection facilities it is important to have support from all corners, such as:

  • The community
  • Stakeholders
  • Local law enforcement

Greg Scott is a professor of sociology at DePaul University who has shown a strong sentiment for the need of progressive ideas that promote health and safety over incarceration and punishment. Scott stated,

“SIFs are practical, concrete, humane, and cost-effective.”

“In every respect, SIFs make sense. They represent a logical (and arguably moral) next step in the process of creatively and effectively providing the whole country with far better health solutions for drug users than have ever been available before.”

American families of every demographic and in every community are feeling the damages of the opiate epidemic and the side-effects of unscientific drug policies, causing an upsurge of interest in public health alternatives. No wonder more people are starting to take supervised injection facilities more seriously.

The Recovery Community

When it comes to people in the recovery community, I understand why some people would be cynical about the possibility of government run establishments allowing injection drug use of heroin or other dangerous narcotics.

Even asking people I personally respect in the local recovery community it seems I get answers ranging from one extreme to the other. Some still say that it is just making legal “shooting galleries” that enable addicts to avoid the consequences of their addiction.

Others say with so many people dying every single day, the numbers speak for themselves and no statistically and scientifically supported program should be ignored without at least a conversation.

Once more, I think the preservation of life and promotion of effective addiction treatment is worth some effort.

Now, tell us what YOU think.

Preventing of death and the spread of disease is vital, and getting the right kind of treatment for drug addiction is paramount to progress. If you or someone you love is struggling, don’t wait. Please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

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