San Francisco Unveils 'Safe Spaces' For Injecting Heroin

In 1971, the Nixon administration coined the term “War on Drugs.” Nixon’s crusade to eliminate illegal drug-use turned into propaganda by state-run media and was championed by succeeding presidents, including Reagan. Four decades and counting: The continued failure of the War on Drugs has led the government to waste hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer dollars and turned America’s prison system into a dystopian nightmare.

Prohibition of drugs is not only ineffective, but counterproductive, at achieving positive outcomes for society. Given the fact that the War on Drugs has contributed to an increase in drug overdoses and fostered the creation of powerful drug cartels domestically and internationally.

We have to ask the question: What can America do differently since the War on Drugs has failed?

The answer could be in the city of San Francisco, as the Department of Public Health is on pace to open two safe injections sites this July, which could become the nation’s first legal, safe injection site aimed at curbing the opioid epidemic. The facilities are considered safe spaces where drug abusers can inject drugs, such as heroin and fentanyl, under the careful supervision of trained medical staff to respond in the event of an overdose or other medical emergencies, said CNN.

While San Francisco Mayor Mark Farrell believes the controversial facilities are not the ideal solution, he thinks the city has no other choice in arresting the out of control overdose deaths ravaging the region.

“I understand the misgivings around it and some of the rhetoric from people who don’t support it,” Farrell said last week. “But we absolutely need to give it a try.”

Other cities — including Seattle, Baltimore, and Philadelphia — are discussing safe injection facilities with their community leaders, but San Francisco could be the first in the next few months. For some time, facilities in Australia, Canada, and Europe have been providing a friendly environment for drug users to chase the dragon. 

On a side note, more than 63,000 people overdosed and died in 2016, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is more than the number of Americans killed in Vietnam. Over the next decade, it is projected that half of million people will overdose and die in the United States, exceeding the number of Americans killed in World War II.

San Franciso’s plans to open both safe space facilities are around the July timeframe.

I’m really excited,” said Laura Thomas, the California state director for the nonprofit Drug Policy Alliance. I’ve been working on this particular issue for over a decade.

According to the Safe Injection Services Task Force, there are some 22,000 intravenous drug users scattered around San Francisco, which the number is growing as the technology boom has priced many people out of homes which contributed to an explosion in the homeless population, and of course, has led many to a life of drugs on the streets.

CNN says there are more than 100 peer-reviewed white papers on safe spaces for injection sites, which most papers show declining overdose deaths and positive results for the community.

 More than 100 peer-reviewed studies on safe injection sites — otherwise known as supervised consumption facilities — have consistently shown them to be effective at reducing overdose deaths, preventing transmission of HIV and viral hepatitis, reducing street-based drug use and linking people to drug treatment and other services.

Rachel Kagan, director of communications at the San Francisco Department of Public Health said the safe spaces save the city approximately $3.5 million per annum in overdose-related medical costs, which ultimately frees up hospitals.

There are currently two facilities with six to eight nonprofit organizations in the running to operate the facilities and other drug addiction services around the city, Kagan added.

According to Kagan, funding will come from the private sector to circumvent liability issues, since intravenous drug use is deemed illegal under state and federal law.

“There are over 120 of these around the world at this point, and they all operate on the same basic idea,” Thomas said, referring to locations in Canada, Europe, and Australia. “You show up; you check in; you use your drugs; you hang out for a while, interact with the staff and then go on your way.”

According to an Australian government report, a safe injection site in Sydney managed 3,426 overdose-related events without a single fatality over a period of nine years. The report further said residents noticed a decline of drug addicts shooting up in public.

“One of the biggest supervised injection facilities in the world — certainly in North America — is Insite in Vancouver, British Columbia,” Thomas said. “There’s a nurse’s station in the middle of the room that has all of the syringes, sterile supplies that they may need, and then they go through the usual process of preparing their drugs and injecting them, all under the supervision of trained staff.”

Interesting enough, the sites in San Francisco are considered illegal under California and federal laws, state legislators are rushing to pass a bill that will protect injection sites, property owners, employees, and drug users from arrest. A version of the bill passed in the State Assembly last year but was two votes short in the state Senate, according to Thomas.

“It certainly wouldn’t be the first time that San Francisco has prioritized the health, safety and well-being of its residents over state or federal law,” Thomas added. “Times have changed. The biggest threats we’re seeing aren’t crack houses in urban neighborhoods but overdose deaths and people injecting on the streets.”

A poll directed by David Binder Research in January among 500 registered voters found that 67% of respondents liked the idea, while 27% opposed it, and 6% didn’t know.


TBT or not TBT lloll Fri, 02/09/2018 - 19:45 Permalink

The OD's  are a feature, not a bug.   I know someone who worries about all the deaths out in our southern deserts of people trying to get here illegally but dying instead of heat exhaustion etc.   Again, the more lethal the conditions the better, because such tales massively reduce the number of punters.   

In reply to by lloll

Montana Cowboy J S Bach Fri, 02/09/2018 - 20:40 Permalink

I know you are being facetious, but the really big problems with street drugs would actually be solved by giving away free opiates to users. In countries where use and possession has been decriminalized, there is no increase in usage. Did prohibition result in fewer alcoholics? Now, with that old myth out of the way, let's look at the crime associated with drug use. It is not the use of illegal drugs that causes the associated crime. It is the price of those drugs that is to blame for everything from cartels to prison populations.

In reply to by J S Bach

afronaut Montana Cowboy Sat, 02/10/2018 - 01:13 Permalink

Big difference. You can titrate alcohol, for example I can have a beer or two and not get wasted like a zombie. Doesn't work with heroin. Booze isn't as easy to get addicted to. Get tougher on this crap, not softer. Work camps for rehab out in the middle of nowhere. Teach real skills to make a new start. Plumbing carpentry ect. 

In reply to by Montana Cowboy

strannick Billy the Poet Fri, 02/09/2018 - 19:28 Permalink

Britain started Chinas drug war by addicting the country to opium from Afghanistan.

Mao then won his war his war on drugs when he killed all the dealers and junkies.

Since the CIA now controls Afghan heroin , they are in the business of creating addicts not curing them, and are auded by progressive useful idiots in SF..believe the way to cure heroin is with more heroin.  So there will be never be victory against this demonic organization until the coming of Christ

In reply to by Billy the Poet

Kagemusho strannick Fri, 02/09/2018 - 20:36 Permalink

China still has a massive drug problem, and executes dealers and users regularly...but the regularity of executions only illustrates just how pointless prohibition is.

This country didn't have any national drug laws until 1914, and we didn't have anywhere near the 'drug problem' we have today. The laws were the result of the usual suspects, the 'progressive' do-gooders who never know when to leave off.  An addict could get his fix at a 'drug store' for pennies on the dollar and few had to resort to crime to afford it. If you OD'd, well, then, you were expected to be responsible for your actions; another druggie loser bites the dust while ordinary people go on with their lives. It didn't go sour until government got involved and made things worse.

We haven't spent a trillion dollars since 1969 trying to keep alcoholics from drinking themselves to death; what's so special about a druggie's life that we spend so much on those who think so little of themselves that they kill themselves slowly with that crap? Are their lives more valuable than a drunk's? We should do like we did in ending alcohol Prohibition; re-legalize the junk, control it, let the price drop as well as the profit and let the idiots give themselves Darwin Awards. Let the scum clean itself out of the shallow end of the gene pool.  Fuk 'em.

In reply to by strannick

PaulDF Fri, 02/09/2018 - 19:32 Permalink

Wouldn’t it be quicker, cheaper, and more efficient to hand out rat-poison laced heroin with the needles? These folks are killing themselves, so just cut to the chase.  

I’m not unsympathetic to additions, but enabling does nothing positive!

Blankone PaulDF Fri, 02/09/2018 - 19:45 Permalink

If they knowing choose to take rat poison, let them. They choose heroin, so let them. In fact make it legal and sell it in licensed or govt outlets.

But in this case at least a few of them go to a designated spot and do not throw their needles onto the ground for others to get poked by. Most will be too lazy to walk to the clean controlled spots and will just continue as always. Just do not give them needles to walk out with unless they bring dirty needles in with them.

In reply to by PaulDF

Dumpster Elite Fri, 02/09/2018 - 19:35 Permalink

Kinda amazing how they compare the amount of people dying from overdoses to the amount of men who died in WWII. The WWII deaths were to save the world. The drug-abuser deaths are Darwinian. There is absolutely nothing heroic about someone jamming a needle in their arm. The drug-related deaths are necessary, in order to cleanse the gene pool of these types of genes. Saving these people that want to kill themselves serves no purpose. The "Safety Coordinator" should just fill their syringes with cyanide. Same outcome, and more humane.