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This is absolutely, amazing. Finally, people in high power positions are working to treat drug addiction as a medical problem first and not a misdemeanor. Allowing places such as these supervised “shoot up centers”, and providing clean needles is just the way to prevent all sorts of bad things from happening (besides becoming addicted in the first place), like the spread of HIV from dirty needles, and overdoses resulting in death. At least this way, an illegal substance is controlled, making more people more safe than they are currently, because now, it’s all out on the streets. People are acquiring HIV and hep C all the time, and people are dying all over the place from ODs. A center like this would be a great way help addicts, and allow the main hospital to treat (mostly) non-drug related incidents. But no, Bertha Madras, the head deputy director motherfucker of demand reduction for the White House Office of National Drug Control, is an idiot (big surprise, right?). No matter how hard we (as a country) try to make drugs disappear, they’re not going to, and she (and we) need(s) to wake up to that. Remaining in denial about this fact of life, and taking on the philosophy Bertha has by thinking a CLEAN, SAFE, NURSE-SUPERVISED injection center will make everyone think that the United States government is giving up it’s “war on drugs” is utterly ridiculous, and believing that “we will succeed” is totally unrealistic! “Sixty-five similar facilities exist in 27 cities in eight countries, but no U.S. cities have considered creating one” Gee, I wonder why that is. Is it because other countries are more efficient than we are in basic problem solving skills? Hmm…

Users Shoot Up


Posted: 2007-10-19 14:41:14

SAN FRANCISCO (Oct. 18) – City health officials took steps Thursday toward opening the nation’s first legal safe-injection room, where addicts could shoot up heroin, cocaine and other drugs under the supervision of nurses.

Hoping to reduce San Francisco’s high rate of fatal drug overdoses, the public health department co-sponsored a symposium on the only such facility in North America, a 4-year-old Vancouver site where an estimated 700 users a day self-administer narcotics under the supervision of nurses.

“Having the conversation today will help us figure out whether this is a way to reduce the harms and improve the health of our community,” said Grant Colfax, director of HIV prevention for the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

Organizers of the daylong forum, which also included a coalition of nonprofit health and social-service groups, acknowledge that it could take years to get an injection facility up and running. Along with legal hurdles, such an effort would be almost sure to face political opposition.

Bertha Madras, deputy director of demand reduction for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, called San Francisco’s consideration of such a facility “disconcerting” and “poor public policy.”

“The underlying philosophy is, ‘We accept drug addiction, we accept the state of affairs as acceptable,”‘ Madras said. “This is a form of giving up.”

Sixty-five similar facilities exist in 27 cities in eight countries, but no other U.S. cities have considered creating one, according to Hilary McQuie, Western director for the Harm Reduction Coalition, a nonprofit that promotes alternative drug treatment methods.

“If it happens anywhere in the U.S., it will most likely start in San Francisco,” McQuie said. “It really just depends on if there is a political will here. How long it takes for that political will to develop is the main factor.”

Drug overdoses represented about one of every seven emergency calls handled by city paramedics between July 2006 and July 2007, according to San Francisco Fire Department Capt. Niels Tangherlini. At the same time, the number of deaths linked to overdoses has declined from a high of about 160 in 1995 to 40 in 2004, he said.

Colfax estimated that there are between 11,000 and 15,000 intravenous drug users in San Francisco, most of them homeless men. Like many large U.S. cities, the city operates a clean-needle exchange program to reduce HIV and hepatitis C infections.

Advocates plan to work on building community support for a safe-injection center, including backing from Mayor Gavin Newsom and the Board of Supervisors.

While it’s too early to tell what the room in San Francisco would look like, Vancouver’s InSite program is located on the upper floor of a low-rise building in a downtown neighborhood where drug users shoot up in the open.

The site, exempt from federal drug laws so users can visit without fear of arrest, has 12 private booths where addicts inject drugs such as heroin, cocaine or crystal. They can use equipment and techniques provided by the staff, said Thomas Kerr, a University of British Columbia researcher who has extensively studied the program.

While 800 overdoses have occurred on the premises, Kerr said, none of them resulted in death because of the medical supervision provided at InSite. His research also has shown an increase in addicts seeking drug treatment and a decrease in abandoned syringes, needle-sharing, drug-related crime and other problems since the clinic opened, he said.

The results indicate the idea is worth replicating, despite the criticism it may attract, Kerr said.

“I prefer the approach of the Vancouver Police Department, which was: ‘We don’t like the idea of this, but let’s look at the evidence and at the end of three years we will tell you either this is something we can support or it’s something we can’t support,”‘ he said.