Safe Injection Sites

Safe injection sites have been popping up around the world since the early 70’s and while the United States has considered the move to be controversial, there are some cities giving the idea a chance.

Heroin use in America

Photo by: Kiril pipo

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Heroin use has been increasing in recent years among men and women, most age groups, and all income levels. . . During 2015, around 828,000 persons in the United States (12 years or older) used heroin in the past year, which is an estimated rate of 0.3 per 100 persons. And in 2014, more than 11,000 hospitalizations occurred for unintentional, heroin-related poisonings.” These statistics account for heroin use, not for other illicit drugs and do not include those persons who were untruthful or who did not participate when the gathering of this information occured.

Spread of disease

With drugs like heroin that are taken via injection comes an increase in disease spread by unsanitary conditions and dirty needles. The CDC estimates that “about 1 in 10 new HIV diagnoses in the United States are attributed to injection drug use or male-to-male sexual contact and injection drug use.” While diseases are spreading rampantly through the drug community, the general public is also at an increased risk in contracting infectious diseases such as HIV and viral hepatitis. Although some inject drugs at home, other use drugs such as heroin in public places including parks, bathrooms, public transportation, homeless camps, or discreet areas near businesses. Any member of the general public, including children, may come across used needles and other drug paraphernalia left out in these areas. Almost 40 states have implemented needle exchange programs in an effort to stop the spread of disease, but this may not be enough if users are too high to transport their dirty needles to these facilities.

Safe injection sites

Safe injection sites, otherwise known as supervised injection sites are areas set aside for users to use illegal drugs such as heroin. These safe injection sites offer access to clean needles and medical supervision as well as educational information regarding drug abuse. Safe injection sites have been gaining in popularity throughout Europe since the 1970’s with countries such as the Netherlands having more than 30 facilities in operation. The United States however has been slow to accept the idea of safe injection sites with authorities worried it will encourage drug use or appear as though state and government officials are endorsing the illegal activity.

Overdose Prevention

Photo by: Todd Huffman

While safe injection sites could help prevent the spread of disease, one of the most beneficial reasons for these facilities is reducing drug overdoses. The CDC has estimated that over the last year, at least 70,000 people have died from drug overdoses. Over just the last month, several cities throughout the country have experienced spikes of drug overdoses from illegal substances such as heroin to even marijuana which is legal in many areas throughout the country. These overdoses as of late have not been caused by users ingesting a greater quantity of the drugs, but from the drug itself being different from what they are used to. Some drug users may think they have an idea as to what their limits are when it comes to how much of a certain drug they can handle safely. Unfortunately, not all drugs are created equal, with some having a higher potency while others are might be cut with other harmful substances that can quickly cause a user to overdose. These other substances may include synthetic drugs such as Fentanyl or chemical fillers with unknown reactions when ingested. With medical staff standing by at safe injection sites, users can rest assured there will be someone there to render aid and overdose reversal drugs if needed.

Protection for users and the public

Fortunately a handful of cities throughout the United States including Seattle, San Francisco, Denver, and Philadelphia that are finally seeing the health benefits safe injections sites can offer to the public as well as drug users. Hopefully more areas of the country will accept these facilities but until then, friends and family of drug users are encouraged to keep drug reversal drugs on hand and to help their loved ones locate safe needle disposal locations in their area.

Drivers Cautioned of Increased Risk of Auto-Pedestrian Accidents

As thousands of Utah children head to the streets after dark tonight, drivers are cautioned to be extra attentive to the increased risk of auto-pedestrian accidents on Halloween.

Halloween hazards

Photo by: Srdjan Jovanovic

Photo by: Srdjan Jovanovic

Each holiday has hazards that are somewhat distinctive to that holiday alone. Independence Day sees a large amount of accidental fires and burn victims while there is always an uptick of drunk drivers on holidays such as New Year’s Eve. Unfortunately on Halloween there are more auto-pedestrian accidents than any other holiday and most of the victims involved are children.

Increased auto-pedestrian accidents and deaths

A 20 year study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states: “Overall, among children aged 5-14 years, “an average of four deaths occurred on Halloween during [the hours of 4 p.m. through 10 p.m.] each year, compared with an average of one death during these hours on every other day of the year.” According to the CDC, this drastic surge of auto-pedestrian accidents and deaths on Halloween is likely due to these factors:

• Most of the foot traffic is at night compared to daytime when children are usually outside;
• Kids are less likely to cross at crosswalks and will take the fastest route to the next house which can often take them into the roadway on blind corners and between parked cars;
• Many costumes children wear are dark colored making it harder for drivers to see them;
• Children may be too distracted to be aware of vehicle dangers;
• Young trick-or-treaters may be unable to cross the street swiftly enough;
• Masks and other costumes may limit a child’s vision and hearing;
• Young children may not fully understand the danger of cars; and
• Some kids may not realize that they can be hurt, even in a crosswalk.

Criminal charges for drivers involved

Drivers are expected to be extra vigilant when driving on the evening of Halloween. Although most auto-pedestrian accidents are not deliberate, drivers who are involved may end up facing charges for their role, especially if a death occurs. The charges could be both criminal and civil and can range from misdemeanors to felonies, depending on the severity of the incident and whether negligence or impairment was involved. Drivers who are involved in auto-pedestrian accidents are urged to speak with a criminal defense attorney immediately.