Letters to the Editor

Safe injection: Knee-jerk opposition is not helpful

Re: “Pierce County prepares to ban safe-injection sites,” (TNT, 3/18).

Some of our leaders are moving to preempt safe injection sites: places where addicts can safely use drugs with trained personnel standing by to provide medical assistance and counseling.

At first glance, these sites seem to be enabling harmful addiction. The addict should stop using altogether. It would be great if all addicts could begin to practice total abstinence from drugs.

In my 20 years of treating substance abusers, however, I have found that the abstinence approach doesn’t work very well. The relapse rate among heroin users is particularly high -- around 80 percent.

Sometimes we let the perfect be the enemy of the good. I think this is the case with those who wish to ban safe-injection sites.

These sites do not encourage addiction; they reduce some of the harm that results from addiction.

It puts addicts in a place where they can talk about their addiction with trained counselors, and perhaps begin steps toward treatment. There is good science to indicate this is so.

A “knee jerk” reaction to this approach is not good public policy. It is time we look for new solutions.