Proposed “Safe-Injection” Site in San Francisco Ignores Proven Solutions to Treating Drug Addicts

Drug treatment works. How do we know? Today, there are millions of millions of Americans successfully recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. These courageous Americans are living proof that effective drug treatment can save lives and reduce our national drug problem.
That’s why it’s so troubling to see this:
“SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — 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 four-year-old Vancouver site where an estimated 700 intravenous users a day self-administer narcotics under the supervision of nurses…
… 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.” [AP]
Indeed, no one proposes aiding and sustaining an alcoholic by providing a supervised site for alcohol use. At best, so-called “harm reduction” is half-way measure; half-hearted approach that accepts defeat. Pretending harmful activity will be reduced if we condone it under the law is foolhardy and irresponsible.
Need more proof that treatment works? Consider this:
• Nearly 10,000 clients in community-based programs in 11 cities were compared before and after treatment on a number of key outcomes. Depending upon treatment modality, the data showed reductions in weekly use of heroin (between 44 and 69 percent), cocaine (between 56 and 69 percent), and marijuana (between 55 and 67 percent); reductions in illegal behavior (between 36 and 61 percent); and improvements in employment status (between 4 and 12 percent).
• One year following discharge from drug treatment, use of the primary drug of choice dropped 48 percent; arrests dropped 64 percent; self-reported illegal activity dropped 48 percent; and the number of health visits related to substance use declined by more than 50 percent.
• Five years after discharge, there was a 21 percent reduction in the use of any illegal drug—a 45 percent reduction in powder cocaine use, a 17 percent drop in crack cocaine use, a 14 percent decline in heroin use, and a 28 percent drop in marijuana use. Similar reductions were reported for criminal activity: a 30 percent reduction in selling drugs, a 23 percent decrease in victimizing others, and a 38 percent drop in breaking and entering, as well as a 56 percent drop in motor vehicle theft.

Sources: Drug Abuse Treatment Outcome Study, National Treatment Improvement Evaluation Study, and Services Research Outcomes Study.

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