Safe Harbor

Posted on Friday, December 2nd

We lost our youngest son Jesse to a heroin overdose. So my first reaction to the idea of injection centers to help addicts get clean was, “no way!”

I was wrong. So are public health and political leaders who oppose the idea, arguing that it merely perpetuates addiction.  Recent polling found the public feels the same way.

“This belief is based on a complete misunderstanding of heroin addiction,” Dr. Sam Snodgrass told the Daily Beast. He is on the board of Broken No More, a heroin overdose support group.

“Science has shown that it is not a choice. It doesn’t matter if we have a safe facility to use in or not, we can’t stop. We’ll use under bridges, in parks, in the bathroom at McDonald’s, and we will become sick, and we will die of overdose. This facility will not ‘enable’ us, it will save us.

Currently, Vancouver Canada is the only North American city running such centers. Ithaca, NY may be the next if Mayor Svante L. Myrick’s plan is adopted. 

For Myrick, addiction is personal he grew up with a father addicted to cocaine, “I learned at a very young age that this was a disease and that it was a powerful one. I’m just glad people are talking about it. This has been a quiet epidemic for far too long.”

A New England Journal of Medicine study found such centers work with 90 percent of heroin users staying with injection center programs to get them into treatment and help in turning around their lives.

Mayor Myrick’s plan is still in development resolving many issues including funding.

He stresses that the proposed medically run injection centers are part of a four part plan that focuses on prevention, treatment and law enforcement.

We worked hard to help our son Jesse clean get clean. He did too. There was a sign taped to the ceiling of his dorm room. He saw it every morning when he awakened, “try to stay clean today.”

I doubt he would have gone to one of Mayor’s Myrick’s centers. Too shy, and embarrassed. But I would have dragged him. In the end he died, alone in his dorm room.