Whether you knew about it or not, Edmonton is gearing up to have four locations provide safe injection sites in about a year’s time. It’s an issue that has had its controversies and differing opinions. But what are safe injection sites? What goes on behind the doors? Why is it important for Edmonton to have them?
Safe injection sites are what the name implies; they are, in the simplest definition, locations where people can safely consume drugs and are monitored to ensure they don’t overdose. In reality, these facilities offer more than just a place to shoot up. They provide mental health support for drug addicts, information and support for those who want to stop using drugs, and a safe space for these people. These sites aren’t giving drug users a ‘free for all’ like some people imply. Instead, they are keeping them off of the streets while consuming drugs and providing them support that they may not receive elsewhere.
When you turn on the news and hear about overdose deaths, you may think about how the whole thing could be avoided. People who use drugs often can’t quit on their own; their drug habit has become a crutch for them to escape reality. Why would someone want to do that? When would the need to escape overrule the need to stay healthy, stay alive? When society has abandoned them.
It’s a common misconception that all drug users are just lazy and lack the willpower to turn their lives around. Some were prescribed opioids and became addicted. Others just made bad decisions. But why should we condemn them for the rest of their lives? These are people after all, not a pile of dust that you can sweep under the carpet.
These sites could alleviate more problems that people may think. Injection sites will provide sterile needles, ensuring that users will not get infections and have to make a trip to the doctor. That translates into less of a burden being placed on the health care system. Being monitored and off the streets when under the influence will not only stop unnecessary overdose deaths, but could make our streets safer. Families who live downtown won’t have to worry as much about their kids finding discarded needles in the park.
While these sites could be seen as an eyesore (or worse) by the general public, they could save someone’s life. Having injection sites collectively provide 24/7 care for users could alleviate burdens on the health care system, have the potential to make streets safer, and most importantly, help someone get their life back together.