Mayor Svante Myrick of Ithaca, New York proposed an idea last month to offer a “supervised space where addicts could inject heroin.” Essentially, this new plan allows drug addicts to shoot up heroin in a “safe” environment, without legal ramifications. This facility would be the first in the United States, acting as a test drive for this particular idea.
Initially, this reads as a bad idea. But upon further evaluation, it is absolutely a terrible idea, for several reasons.
First of all, regardless of whether or not a heroin safe haven facility is a good idea, Ithaca is not the place to find out. Ithaca, NY is home to two places of higher education: Ithaca College and Ivy League institution Cornell University. This facility will undoubtedly drive addicts to Ithaca. Considering that students at Cornell University and Ithaca College make up nearly half of Ithaca’s population, Ithaca can be decidedly categorized as a collegetown. Is a collegetown the place where we want to experiment with this dangerous idea?
I attend Cornell University, and I do not feel comfortable with this facility. If this facility is within reach of either of our campuses, will this drive drug dealers to the schools? Drugs are already a problem on campus. Ithaca drug dealers find their way to Cornell and sell to Cornell students; a heroin safe haven facility will make this problem worse.
Considering that buying, selling, and doing heroine is illegal, every single person coming to this facility will be a criminal. Aside from the obvious drug threat this facility poses to Ithaca citizens, it also poses an increased crime threat. In the United States, 76.9% of drug offenders reoffend, committing a crime different from drug use. Is Ithaca really willing to open its doors to potential reoffenders? Rather, is Ithaca willing to pay for potential reoffenders to enter the city? While Mayor Myrick has not explicitly stated how the facility will be funded, it is always a possibility that facilities like this get their funding from tax payer dollars.
This facility will convey to the nation that despite heroin being illegal everywhere else in the country, Ithaca has found a way where drug users can shoot up, without the fear of cops or legal consequences. The way that Mayor Myrick is defending this idea is that it allows a clean and safe facility for drug users to use heroine. But doesn’t that just send the message that drugs are OK as long as you are clean about them? We cannot even consider the absurd idea that a drug like heroin is okay.
Former heroin addict and current addiction expert Mike Gimbel says, “We’re talking about a government-sponsored shooting gallery… The addict is going to say: this is cool, a place I don’t have to worry about the cops. Why should an addict stop if there are no consequences for their behavior?”
Heroin addiction has become an epidemic, but this is not the solution. We need to find solutions that solve the root of the problem.
Consider addicts who go to rehab, looking to get clean. After rehab, they feel confident in their ability to stay clean, yet return to the same neighborhood, the same friends, the same lifestyle that facilitated their drug use in the same time. Perhaps we should invest resources into life after rehab instead. One idea is to give recovering addicts apprenticeship opportunities after they complete rehab so they can learn skills and have an achievable goal to look forward to.
In addition, we need to more intensely investigate over-scripting by doctors. The DEA reported that 4 out of 5 heroin users began using heroin after “developing an addiction to legal, prescription painkillers.” How about the findings that painkillers are more deathly than heroin and cocaine combined?
What about better drug education in schools? One in five high school students have admitted to abusing prescription drugs. Roughly 50% of high school seniors do not “think it’s harmful to try crack or cocaine once or twice” while 40% believe trying heroine once or twice is not harmful either. Clearly our education system is not doing a good enough job warning our children against drug use.
We need to invest our resources into programs that help addicts before they become addicted, as well as life immediately after rehab. We need to stop the over prescription by doctors. We need to fix the after rehab re-integration process. We need to educate our children while they’re in school. What we don’t need is a facility that will further drug use and has the potential to create more problems than it will solve.