Pubdate: Mon, 09 May 2016
Source: Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)
Copyright: 2016 The Commercial Appeal
Author: David Klepper, Associated Press


Federal Law Prohibits Sites That Would Give Supervision, Antidote

Across the United States, users of heroin and other drugs have died 
in alleys behind convenience stores, on city sidewalks and in the 
bathrooms of fast-food joints - because no one was around to save 
them when they overdosed.

An alarming 47,000 American overdose deaths in 2014 pushed elected 
leaders from coast to coast to consider government-sanctioned sites 
where heroin users can shoot up under the supervision of a doctor or 
nurse who can administer an antidote if necessary.

"Things are getting out of control. We have to find things we can do 
for people who are addicted now," said New York state Assemblywoman 
Linda Rosenthal, who is working on legislation to allow supervised 
injection sites that also would include space for treatment services.

Critics of the war on drugs have long talked about the need for a new 
approach to addiction, but the idea for supervised injection sites is 
now coming from state lawmakers in New York, Maryland and California, 
and city officials in Seattle, San Francisco and Ithaca, New York.

While such sites have operated for years in places such as Canada, 
the Netherlands and Australia, they face legal and political 
challenges in the U.S.

"It's a dangerous idea," said John Walters, drug czar under President 
George W. Bush. "It's advocated by people who seem to think that the 
way we should help sick people is by keeping them sick, but comfortably sick."

In the U.S., which for decades has treated addiction as a law 
enforcement issue, the biggest hurdle remains federal law, which 
makes such facilities illegal. Supporters say officials in the 
nation's capital could grant an exemption or adopt a hands-off 
approach similar to the federal government's response to state 
medical marijuana programs.

But Kevin Sabet, a former drug policy adviser to the Obama 
administration, put the chances of injection sites getting approval 
anytime soon at zero.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom