Supervised injection sites offer hope, not just drugs

I can’t believe there is resistance to providing safe injection sites.

I think people have forgotten – or perhaps never considered – that addicts are people. Someone’s daughter, son, brother, sister, cousin, mother, father. Someone who once had hopes and dreams for themselves. Hopes and dreams that got lost in the morass of dependency on drugs. Someone for whom many other people had great hopes and dreams as well. Our job as citizens is to try to ensure that they live to fulfil their dreams.

Individuals who habitually use drugs are not throwaway people. They are real people caught up in the horror of addiction. All along, they have suffered accidental deaths from overdoses. But these days, drug addiction carries with it the real and present danger of dying due to an overdose of unknown quantities of the potent drug, fentanyl, laced into other drugs of choice, or even straight fentanyl.

More than 20 years ago, my oldest child, then a teenager, was seduced by drugs and became addicted. Eventually, we could not allow him to live with us. That stretch of letting go was perhaps the hardest thing my partner and I have ever done. All we could do was repeat the mantra, “let him live,” “let him live,” over and over.

Our story has a happy ending because he did live. He lived and thrived. Today, he is a lawyer in the non-profit sector. He is married and has two children. He attends Narcotics Anonymous and helps other addicts who are struggling to stay clean. Staying alive until he had had enough was what he needed to turn his life around.

That is why safe injection sites are so important. People who are dependent on drugs (or who have other addictions…) are in a vicious circle. They are not proud of themselves. They live for their habit. When they are high, they don’t care about anything else. Their lives revolve around drugs and when they are going to get their next fix.

But many, many people sooner or later want to stop. It often takes a few tries, but the only way to keep trying to stop is by staying alive.

So please, next time you heap scorn on people who are dependent on drugs, or turn your back, or begrudge money being spent to care for them, try to remember that this is a real person who deserves a chance to have another go at making a better life. All we have to do is provide a pathway for them to live. Safe injection sites offer that hope.

By Elaine Lowe
Source: Ottawa Citizen