Opinions

Denver tests supervised injection sites

The city of Denver is assessing a proposal to provide intravenous drug users semi-private booths where they can safely inject controlled substances such as heroin with clean needles. This proposal is a component of legislation that won endorsement from a 10-member committee that aims to combat Colorado’s opioid crisis. While the final verdict will be reached in January when the General Assembly meets, this proposal should be met with strong support and eventually be authorized.

Heroin users could use clean needles in private booths that are equipped with a chair and a mirror. They would not face any threat of arrest and would be overseen by trained staff that intervene with a life-saving antidote if an overdose occurred. Staff members would also distribute sterile needles and could potentially distribute distilled water.

Nine countries, including Canada, Germany and Spain have already authorized this practice. Cities that established supervised injection locations reported fewer overdose deaths. An analysis of 75 studies discovered that these locations were not connected to escalated drug use or crime.

If supervised injection locations were successful in these countries, Denver should open a location too. In Colorado, heroin deaths have swelled by more than 500 percent since 2006. In the past three years, more than 2,662 people died from drug overdose. In 2016, 912 people in the state died from overdose, which was a new record high. In Denver specifically, 174 people died, 20 of them in public spaces such as alleys, parks and restrooms.

These numbers are frightening. As the nation’s drug crisis escalates, it is time to pay attention to this issue. Opening substance booths in Denver is an effective first step. It is evident that Colorado has an alarming heroin crisis. Allowing supervised injection sites in the state’s capital should strongly be taken into consideration. The people of Denver should be mindful about the out-of-state cities that had promising results. These promising results could be seen in Denver if an injection site opened there. If there is a chance to ameliorate the heroin crisis, then Denver should immediately take it.

The proposal should not be seen as radical. Providing a safe location for controlled substance use is not an extreme social change. Rather, it is a way to help heroin addicts prevent future overdose deaths and resist increased drug crime. The proposal should be received as a well-intentioned idea that fights a growing problem in Colorado.

If the creation of supervised injection sites makes a positive impact, then Denver’s city council and state legislature should legalize this proposal.

December 4, 2017

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