Philadelphia Already Has Safe Injection Sites, But Not For Everyone

As is the case with so many public health problems in the United States, only a select few have safe places to use substances. The rest have to wait on the public’s good will for a safe and effective intervention to be decriminalized.

René F. Najera, MPH, DrPH

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“Matthew T Rader, MatthewTRader.com, License CC-BY-SA

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 100,000 people lose their lives each year from drug overdoses. Most of them die from overdosing on opioid drugs, as the country continues to suffer from the most recent wave of opioid overdoses and deaths. We epidemiologists — people who study diseases and conditions, who gets them, and what to do about them — know there are viable solutions to the problem. We know because we have studied what works and what doesn’t in many places around the world, starting with Portugal, a model for what drug policy at all levels of government could be doing to stop drug use in general and deaths in particular.

“By 2018, Portugal’s number of heroin addicts had dropped from 100,000 to 25,000. Portugal had the lowest drug-related death rate in Western Europe, one-tenth of Britain and one-fiftieth of the U.S. HIV infections from drug use injection had declined 90%. The cost per citizen of the program amounted to less than $10/citizen/year while the U.S. had spent over $1 trillion over the same amount of time. Over the first decade, total societal cost savings (e.g., health costs, legal costs, lost individual income) came to 12% and then to 18%.”

Is Portugal’s Drug Decriminalization a Failure or Success? The Answer Isn’t So Simple, Knowledge at Wharton, Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

The latest model public health is working with (when it comes to substance use disorder) is the harm reduction model. This model recognizes that very few people will quit using psychoactive substances immediately and completely. The model recognizes that it is best to give people who use substances the tools and resources needed to stop using substances, and to address the personal, familial, and societal problems that led them to use substances. It also acknowledges that addiction is complex, and…

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René F. Najera, MPH, DrPH

DrPH in Epidemiology. Associate/JHBSPH. Adjunct/GMU. Epidemiologist. Father. Husband. (He/Him/His/El)