Safe injection frustration

New York City announced this week that it plans to open “safe injection” sites for heroin addicts. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept and don’t want to read this explainer article we so kindly linked here for you, the basic idea comes down to harm reduction. Essentially, by providing users with sterile needles and emergency medical supervision (see: Naloxone), these sites could greatly decrease the amount of deaths and medical complications associated with illicit heroin use. European countries are less averse to the idea, citing study data which show these benefits as well as others like less public injecting and increased addiction treatment entry. That’s a harder sell in the US, where the dominant mindset is Just Say “No”.

Naloxone for the people

The US Surgeon General has issued a nationwide advisory calling for more people to get training and access to the opioid overdose reversal drug Naloxone. The life-saving drug can be administered by shot or nasal spray, and blocks the brain’s response to opioids while allowing the patient to breathe again. So yeah, America’s doctor is saying this drug can save lives in a bad epidemic, what’s the big deal? Well one of the big points of the announcement is to loosen up restrictions for prescribing the drug to family and friends of opioid abusers. It also argues for wider application of ‘Good Samaritan’ laws, so that someone doesn’t worry about getting arrested for calling 911 when observing an overdose. You know what they say, no good deed…

4. Compounding addictions

You know what sounds crazy? The FDA’s “2016 Naloxone App Competition.” The idea, to develop a location-based, social search service application (a la Tinder) that connects opioid users and first responders to someone nearby with a dose of naloxone, was presented as a challenge by the FDA to programmers, public health advocates, researchers and entrepreneurs in an attempt to slow the death rate from opioid overdoses. Naloxone is a prescription drug able to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose when administered quickly enough; the FDA believes this antidote is currently in too few hands to save all who might benefit. But an FDA sanctioned app that unites drug users with drugs? Just like opioids and smartphones, this app seems ripe for abuse.