The opioid pandemic has wreaked havoc across America for decades, taking hundreds of thousands of lives from 1999 and leaving millions of Americans with substance use disorder. The prevalence of pharmaceutical drugs as well as the increased accessibility of illicit drugs such as heroin has made it nearly impossible to effectively end the opioid crisis. And since addiction and drug use tends to have extremely negative stereotypes, addicts tend to shy away from seeking treatment.
For several lawmakers and drug reform groups, the first thing to do was reduce opioid deaths. From April 2020 to April 2021, America lost an estimated 100,000 people to opioid overdoses, significantly underscoring the need for immediate action. Ironically, one of the most controversial solutions to opioid deaths —safe-consumption sites — has proven to be quite effective at preventing individuals from succumbing to opioid overdoses. These sites are locations where people suffering from drug addiction can consumer illicit drugs under the supervision of trained medical professionals to prevent overdose deaths.
New York City was the first city in the country to launch an Overdose Prevention Center. According to the New York City Health Department, these harm-reduction centers have been used more than 2,000 times and prevented at least 59 overdose deaths so far. The initial results have been quite promising, Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi said in a press release, with the harm-reduction centers reducing “needless suffering and avoidable death.”
The simple, indisputable truth is that safe-consumption sites save lives, Chokshi says. For years, drug reform advocates have argued that such sites could be instrumental in helping America combat the opioid overdose epidemic and reduce the stigma associated with substance misuse disorders. Destigmatizing such disorders will make people a lot more comfortable with seeking treatment before it’s too late. Sam Rivera, the executive director of OnPoint NYC, which runs a safe consumption site, says the group is trying to humanize people who, in many cases, aren’t treated as human.
The New York City Board of Health recently approved a resolution that outlined the evidence showing just how effective a harm-reduction approach, rather than criminal justice, can be. The unanimously approved resolution also urged New York State and the federal government to provide authorization for harm-reduction centers as well as expand funding and support for the harm-reduction approach.
There may be some benefit to determining how this harm-reduction effort can benefit from cutting-edge devices such as the smart inhalers and dose-measuring devices commercialized by companies such as RYAH Group Inc. (CSE: RYAH) since the technology has the capacity to regulate the dosage consumed.
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