File Art: Opinion Politics

Cincinnati and cities across the country need to create safe spaces for drug use.

The tri-state has a well-documented heroin problem. In 2011, Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties accounted for 60 percent of Kentucky’s heroin offenses, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer.

Kentucky crime lab reports 3,570 heroin cases in 2014, up from 1,803 in 2012 and 451 in 2010.

 A safe space may help reduce the number of fatalities from overdose. In fact, it may also help users to become clean.

One such safe drug use facility is being created in Seattle, according to advocates.  

The space would be comprised of stalls for users with medical staff nearby in case of overdose, and to help users get connected to rehab and other services if they so desire.

Vancouver, Canada has a site like this called Insite, where users can safely inject.

Medics do not assist in injection, but make sure users have access to clean needles for safe injections.

Fatal overdoses within 500 meters, or 1,640 feet, of Insite decreased by 35 percent after the facility opened, compared to a decrease of 9 percent in the rest of Vancouver, according to a 2011 study by medical journal The Lancet.

There are nearly 500 injections performed each day at Insite, according to USA Today.

The Insite website claims while they have had over 1,000 overdoses, they have not had any deaths, suggesting the site is effective in reducing harm from illicit substances.

Gaining support from law enforcement is the key to establishing institutions like this in the U.S.

This has been a problem so far. Drug offenses make up about 50 percent of prisoners in the U.S., costing cell space and billions of dollars.

The idea builds on needle exchange programs, where users can trade dirty needles for clean ones to help reduce the spread of HIV as well as other infectious blood borne diseases. The Center for Disease Control estimates a third of all HIV cases come from dirty needles.

Needle exchange is a concept which has been around for decades, and many cities have adapted a program like it one form or other, including Cincinnati, where University of Cincinnati doctor Judith Feinberg distributes clean needles and Narcan — a drug reversing the effects of a heroin overdose.  

Tactics like this may be the best hope we have in lowering drug use across the nation.

With America’s war on drugs failing miserably, it is time we adopt a more sympathetic, compassionate approach and use programs like these to help drug users and encourage them to get help.