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:
- 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.
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Author: Justin Mckibben
It is not secret that America is struggling with a drug problem. Overdose rates are ever increasing, the death toll reaches new heights and the world is watching to see how politicians and communities plan to address these mounting issues. The opiate epidemic far too obvious for too many people, and there is a great need for new policies and new ideas for innovating treatment. Now, a small crew has created a mobile drug treatment van to take recovery on the road and provide resources to those suffering.
Maine’s New Mobile Drug Treatment Van
Two Mainers, who are themselves recovering heroin addicts, are setting out on a mission to try and heal communities will education and treatment options. The mobile drug treatment van will travel throughout the city of Sanford, Maine to bring harm reduction services and offer recovery options to the areas most impacted by opioid abuse. The mobile drug treatment vehicle is equipped to offer:
- Clean syringes
- Clean needles
- Testing for HIV and other diseases
- Connecting addicts to treatment options
The new mobile drug treatment is a prevention-based project from the non-profit Choopers Foundation. The Choopers Foundation is a local effort that serves to educate the public on addiction and the need for drug policy reform. According to its website, the foundation’s projects also include:
The two men taking this road trip for recovery are the Choopers Foundation co-founders, Tim Cheney and Adrian Hooper. Given the fact they are both in long-term recovery, they work from an experience many may not understand. Adrian Hooper recently told the Associated Press,
“We reach out to people, treat them with dignity and say we’re here for you to create treatment plans if you ever want to,”
The effort to make a difference in Maine makes plenty of sense.
Other Mobile Drug Treatment Efforts
This isn’t the only case of a mobile drug treatment idea hitting the streets to try and save lives. A similar initiative in rural areas of western Pennsylvania has been delivering monthly injections of Vivitrol. Vivitrol is a medication that blocks the effects of opioid drugs.
This program, the PRS mobile drug treatment clinic, is operated by a private clinic in Washington County. It was put in place to ensure that people living in remote areas are following up on the treatment options provided through this private clinic. The PRS mobile drug treatment is operated from a trailer hitched to a Ford pickup truck.
The mobile drug treatment resource set out to expand its access to people across several counties, giving services to unfunded patients.
Could Mobile Drug Treatment Work?
Having a resource like this is pretty unique. Providing intervention and harm reduction on-the-go could bring much needed opportunities to people who otherwise might not know they exist. Some people are even afraid to ask for help, so maybe making help come to them could work.
Daniel Raymond of the Harm Reduction Coalition says this type of mobile drug treatment program is able to intervene early, before the individual ends up in the hospital or even dead. Creating a traveling resource that can go into different communities may bring more people into the fold who have barely survived on the fringes. Instead of requiring people to find and seek out clean needles, HIV testing or addiction rehabilitation, the mobile drug treatment option can drive a second chance to your neighborhood and park it right outside your door.
Mobile drug treatment might actually carry the message of recovery to new places. Let us hope that it can pick up some hitchhikers and save some lives along the way.
Getting help to those who need it isn’t always easy, but there is real help available. Real recovery begins with effective and innovative treatment. Palm Partners offers holistic treatment program where you create comprehensive and personalized recovery plan. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call now. We want to help.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
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:
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
Author: Shernide Delva
Recently, we wrote about how the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) made the controversial decision to ban kratom by making it a Schedule I drug. While the ban is set to go into effect by the end of this week, advocates of the herbal supplement refuse to go down without a fight. A bipartisan group of 51 House lawmakers recently joined the chorus of opposition to the DEA’s upcoming ban.
To give a quick overview: Back in late August, the DEA announced it would prohibit kratom due to various reports of health implications associated with the use of the drug. The ban would temporarily add Kratom to the schedule 1 category of narcotics along with substances like Marijuana, heroin, and LSD.
The DEA made it clear the decision was due to kratom’s high potential for abuse and the lack of medical benefit of the drug. However, advocates passionately argue that kratom is useful for drug withdrawal and mental health issues like anxiety and depression.
Therefore, placing kratom in the schedule 1 category would effectively ban it from those who regularly use the drug. Many users find the drug useful in treating, pain, depression, high blood pressure among other ailments.
The ban sparked a broad range of controversy. Now, members of Congress have joined the chorus of opposition. A bipartisan group of 51 House Representatives just signed a letter urging DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg to delay the ban.
“As our nation continues to combat the public health crisis of opioid abuse, the federal government has invested significant resources to develop alternative pain management strategies,” reads the letter.
The letter urged the delay to continue the federally funded study of kratom as a possible treatment option for opioid withdrawal. By placing kratom on the Schedule I category, the letter states it will “put a halt on federally funded research and innovation surrounding the treatment of individuals suffering from opioid and other addictions.”
While kratom is not for everyone, many find it a compelling alternative to prescription drugs. Earlier this month, Susan Ash, founder of the American Kratom Association, revealed that her organization has been receiving thousands of calls from people across the United States concerned about losing kratom and resorting to prescription drugs instead.
“I am completely swamped,” Ash told The Fix. “I have thousands of people afraid of relapse. People are explicitly telling us they are terrified of losing their quality of life or even their lives.”
51 House Representatives Urges Delay On Ban
The House representatives’ letter to the DEA urges them to delay the ban and allow more time to consult with “consumers, researcher, and other stakeholders.” When the ban was initially passed, the DEA did not allow any opposition in regards to their decision to ban kratom.
Instead, the DEA argued their decision was valid by citing a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which stated that kratom poisoning was the cause for 660 calls to poison centers across the country between 2010 and 2015. The DEA argued that these numbers clearly indicated the need for the ban. They also pointed to 16 reported kratom-related deaths between 2014 and 2016 to further justify their decision.
Still, these numbers are far overshadowed by other drugs, both legal and illegal. Those in opposition point to the numbers of calls the poison control center receives over laundry pod poisonings. These calls far surpass the number of calls they receive in regards to kratom. Both the House lawmakers and kratom advocates think it is not a good idea to restrict access to Kratom when so many people are searching for safer pain relief alternatives rather than prescription pills.
“This hasty decision could have serious effects on consumer access and choice of an internationally recognized herbal supplement,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter.
Kratom does have the potential for abuse. However, it does have potential medical benefits. While the use of any drug is not ideal, the reality is harm reduction remains a crucial topic of discussion. Further research is needed before a ban on kratom is made. Do you agree with the ban?
Overall, if you are struggling with any substance abuse, legal or illegal, you need to research out for treatment. We have the tools to help in your recovery. Do not wait. Call today.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Shernide Delva
The complexity around homelessness and alcoholism is one that most people choose to ignore. It is easier to ignore the drunken panhandler on the street than consider the possible solutions to reduce the problem. However, for cities that struggle with a large homeless population, advocates fight for policies that will allow the homeless population to seek shelter despite their struggles with alcoholism. The question is, should homeless shelters require sobriety?
While there are people who want to help the homeless population, there are difficulties in helping people in these situations. Policies in communities around how homeless alcoholics are treated and housed in the community have long caused controversy Even if a homeless shelter caseworker can get a housing voucher for an individual; they have to find a landlord who is willing to rent to a street alcoholic. The reality is, according to surveys, 38% of homeless people abuse alcohol while 26% regularly use other drugs. These statistics confirm that drug addiction among the homeless population is significantly higher than the general population.
Let’s say a homeless person acquires access to a homeless shelter. At the shelter, there are very limited support services to help the client adapt and adjust to their new environment. Their alcoholism is rarely addressed nor is the psychological needs of the individual. As a result, they are often evicted which starts the cycle of homelessness all over again.
Whether or not homeless addicts should have access to resources is a complicated problem and no one is entirely at fault. On one hand, a homeless person with substance abuse problems could be a liability to those around them and the staff. On the other hand, this issue must be addressed because some cities spend tens, or hundreds of thousands of dollars a year through crisis services who take care of this population.
But is it Enabling ?
Some feel that homeless people who are under the influence should not be allowed to reside in a homeless shelter or have access to government assistance. They believe that allowing access to these resources could be enabling the person to continue using. After all, if they have access to these facilities while using, why stop? This is the exact reason why numerous shelters do not allow anyone who is under the influence of alcohol (at all) to stay. The thought has always remained to demand abstinence. Anything else just encourages the behaviors.
Other disagrees and offers other solutions. Bob Fowler is the executive director of the Milestone foundation. The facility has been operating out of Portland, Maine since 1967. Fowler believes that providing resources to people in need are better than denying them access at all. Sometimes harm reduction is a goal worth fighting for.
“For me, this is a basic harm reduction approach. The people we serve are dealing with drug and alcohol addiction as well as homelessness. Depriving shelter to these individuals won’t do a thing to help the addiction. Engagement and compassion, on the other hand, just might,” Fowler said in a recent interview.
There are two sides to every argument, and Fowler’s point of view does make sense. Perhaps housing concerns should be addressed before anything else. Instead of a person attempting sobriety before fixing the rest of their life, in this case, it may be better to provide resources prior to achieving sobriety. Finding homeless people a place to live first may provide them with the support they need to tackle their health concerns later. It provides a healthier existence, which could result in them choosing to drink less on their own.
This is an issue that will continue to raise controversy. In the same ways that harm reduction methods for drug addiction continue to raise controversy. Just recently, states like New York has implemented safe injection facilities that some argue are enabling people, rather than helping them in life after sobriety.
Still, there is something to be said about harm reduction programs. If anything, options like this need to be considered. The rates of overdoses continue to soar. If there is a way of reducing these numbers, it should be brought to the table. Options like these can at least be part of the solution. If your or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.