123: Safe Use Sites – What are We Thinking? (Sort Of)

We talk about the safe use sites, also known as safe consumption sites, also known as harm reduction sites, also known as legal injection sites. We explore the 2 locations that have recently opened up in New York City, what they do, how they work, and if it seems to be helping. There has been much criticism of the idea of having safe use sites, even within the recovery community. The idea of safe consumption sites is to meet people where they are. If they aren’t ready to get in recovery, let’s keep them alive. And also decrease the shame associated with drug use, in order to guide them toward recovery. We talk the facts and a bunch of opinions about the safe injection sites. Listen in and learn. Join the conversation by leaving a message, emailing us at RecoverySortOf@gmail.com,  or find us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, or find us on our website at www.recoverysortof.com.

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recovery sort of is a podcast where we discuss recovery topics from the perspective of people living in long-term recovery this podcast does not intend to represent the views of any particular group organization or fellowship the attitudes expressed are solely the opinion of its contributors be advised there may be strong language or topics of an adult nature

welcome back it’s recovery sort of i’m jason a guy who has never had the pleasure of using a safe use site and i’m billy i’m a person in long-term recovery and and i say the pleasure i’m sure that’s a little uh snarky but you know it would have been nice if there was a nice comfortable place to go where i knew i wouldn’t die yeah and for me i never uh was homeless during my active addiction so it was never a problem i always had a safe place to use or you know as safe as you can use anywhere yeah see i i stayed in like a boarding house for a very short time and they wanted half my stuff so i was like no homeless it is i’m not giving half my stuff away that’s crazy um so yeah we’re going to talk about new york city and their supervised drug injection sites or safe consumption sites or overdose prevention sites or whatever in the world you would like to recall them at this point they seem to go by a variety of names but we do have some i guess we call it housekeeping items to go over first we’ve gotten some really really nice messages from people lately and just wanted to acknowledge some of that uh emily reached out to us on instagram and and was just telling us that she she thinks the podcast great she’s gotten a lot out of it when she’s been struggling sort of feels like conversations that happen in informal fellowshipping she said which i i think that’s kind of what we’re going for here uh for sure i hope they also help when you’re not struggling not just listen when life sucks uh you know listen when life is good too maybe we’ll keep that going um but no it was really it was really kind and anytime we get feedback like that it just i don’t know i don’t think i would stop if nobody gave us feedback because i enjoy it and i feel like there’s personal growth in this but it’s still reaffirming yeah it’s definitely encouraging especially since we don’t seek uh whatever you call it praise or approval or surveys or any of that stuff so people are actually going out of their way to send us that feedback it’s kind of nice yeah maybe i should start fishing for a little more feedback there it kind of does feel good um we also had another message or actually this was a comment on our instagram miss erin said she just wanted to tell you how much let me just read it and not try to change the words just wanted to tell you how much i love your podcast it’s really open-minded and funny and honest going to do a deep dive into the catalog today fan for life with like five hearts oh very nice i know right it’s just it’s it’s warming uh we got a comment on youtube from skyler who said it’s a great podcast and then we also got a message from well the name on instagram is mindset expert which is really interesting um and she left us a voice message just telling us she you know works in the field she’s got some different opportunities that she partakes in to help people and give back and she just told us she loves it she loves that we we keep a sense of humor about it that we’re talking about things we’re you know exposing people to new ideas and uh just thank you i mean i all these people reaching out it it means a ton to all of us um and by all of us i mostly mean me and billy but also also jenny who’s a regular here and caroline you know i’m sure they appreciate it too like their contributions are not looked over uh speaking of contributions you know we always like to acknowledge anyone who has given us any cash to assist we don’t you know there’s some podcast where it costs money to listen to them and stuff and that’s not something we’ve ever wanted to do we want to be free and accessible that being said of course there’s always costs involved in running a podcast and and you know billy and i always like to say we don’t keep any money for ourselves it gets donated to us we pass it along to the recovery community to be of benefit in some kind of way shape or form uh and so we want to acknowledge people who have contributed thank you so much we appreciate that and i guess you know something i’ve never mentioned before but i kind of heard this somewhere else you know if you listen to our podcast and you listen in and you get this hour’s worth of like a relieving feeling or a positive vibe or or something like just think about did this hour making me feel as good as a cup of coffee does in the morning right and if you want to donate the price of a cup of coffee per month to us you want to buy us a cup of coffee you can go right to the website recoveryswordof.com there’s a paypal button somewhere on there and there’s i think even a donate tab to make it easier to find if you don’t want to scroll around and look um and you can just donate the price of a cup of coffee and again we’re not even going to drink it we’re going to buy somebody in recovery or or you know someone trying to find recovery recovery we’re gonna buy them a cup of coffee with it or a pair of shoes or an outfit to get a job interview or whatever the hell it is that they need is is the goal and thank you to voices for giving us that opportunity and that easy means of interacting with the community you know voices of hope is a non-profit we’re slightly associated with that you know gives us that opportunity because they’re in the mix and helping people out on the ground level and you know we can just pass that money right to them and they do useful and helpful things with it so thank you to everyone uh we appreciate all your donations contributions your feedback like all of it feels nice and and the great thing about i think having that way of operating where we’re not charging for the podcast is if people who don’t have the money to buy us a cup of coffee that’s cool we still want you to listen and get the information and enjoy yeah for me this all came about just from you and i having a lot of conversations about recovery in the amount that i felt like i was growing and getting out of some of those conversations and the idea of like hey let’s talk about some of this stuff and think through some of these ideas and explore recovery stuff that you’re not going to necessarily hear in a hour meeting or whatever and i’ve enjoyed it i know it’s helped me a lot too yeah and same for me i mean i thought this podcast was a great idea because when i heard myself talking aloud to you i was like that’s brilliant it should be on a patent now just we are really smart

all right so we wanted to get into safe consumption sites that just says every time i hear consumption i think of like a 1989 hallmark movie where somebody coughs blood into a into a handkerchief they got the consumption yeah one of the things i i believe the name keeps changing because it’s still definitely in the united states it’s a newer idea at least newer being put into practice um and it is sort of developing and changing kind of on the fly you know obviously if you call it a safe injection site that makes it sound like it’s just for people that are shooting drugs you know and it’s not necessarily what they are which was fascinating when we found that out yeah you don’t have to do heroin or anything by needle to go there yeah could you go snort everyone there i i don’t know i guess right yeah i mean that’s what it’s there for you can smoke crack there but they don’t get your drugs tested there can you yeah so that’s one of the other things yeah now i’m really jealous yeah i could have knew if i got burnt or not before i shot the coffee creamer i don’t know that they test the purity i think they just test for fentanyl so oh well they should like really test it and tell them analysis is this legit if you want to use it how long are you going to wait for your analysis to come back i’m hoping it’s immediate rapid result test i need a rapid test of purity of course then i’d be pissed i’d be like i bet some of the heroin got sucked up in order for you to test it that was the part that you have to use for the test how aren’t you cutting off the top of my pill there are you really using all that to test yeah i don’t know so that’s that’s fascinating so i think in general like where do you start with this conversation just the idea that who would have thought we’d have this like it’s still federally illegal apparently there’s some crack house uh law which isn’t recalled that specifically but that’s how it’s referred to that like you can’t create an establishment with the purpose of allowing people to do illegal drugs there yeah so safe injection sites or safety sites have existed in other countries i think there’s like 20 other countries that actively have them i know canada there’s a couple in canada um so it’s not like you say it’s not a new concept or something that other countries haven’t been using there is some data on their success and how well they’ve worked and and a little bit of controversy over who they really help and what they really do um but one of the things we know for sure at least it seems like is that they definitely saved lives um they i think you had brought up and and i had heard that statistic somewhere too that no one has died in using in one of these safe use sites since they’ve been in existence which is pretty [ _ ] amazing i mean that blows my mind yeah because we know i mean overdose death rates i think they said they’ve like tripled in the last 20 years and then 2020 was the worst on record in the united states so we know this the overdose death rate is going through the roof um the the tainted drug supply if you want to call it that illegal drug supply is is you know rampant now you’re finding fentanyl and all kinds of drugs besides just heroin or what was thought to be heroin you know it’s in everything and people are overdosing at alarming rates and they say that you know we’re allowing people to go into these sites and use freely and that no one has died is i guess i’ll use the word amazing i don’t know if amazing is the right word but it definitely means it’s it’s at least serving that purpose we’re keeping people alive so this article that i was looking at from the the gothamist it says that 30 people per 100 000 residents of population in new york city overdosed and died and i think i saw the number on a different article which i i couldn’t find again but it said it was 2 000 people or something like that i haven’t run the numbers feel free to go out and fact check me and correct me on that but 2 000 people died that’s a lot of people i mean for sure if we had like 2 000 listeners not to just say that that’d be fantastic we might have 2 000 listeners i don’t know um but that’s that’s an incredible number and and the fact that no one like that blew my mind when i read that no one not one single [ _ ] has died in a safe use site and i was like really i mean people are only there getting high like nobody not one not once did they [ _ ] it up like that’s yeah i i’m incredible amazing like i don’t know what word you want to put on that fantastic like and to me that says well if everybody just used it to save you nobody would die anymore yeah and part of the the problem i guess or or one of the issues we run into is there’s a certain type of person i don’t know how to say this nicely there’s a certain type of person or a certain mentality that believes that we shouldn’t be saving people from the consequences of their behaviors but when those behaviors are death you know it seems like we should you know it and i don’t know how you weigh that out it’s i don’t want to say there’s a specific line but it seems like you fall on one side of the line or the other and it’s like well you do anything you can to save someone’s life you know that’s always the thing you want to do it doesn’t matter if they did it to themselves or not i mean even if someone’s trying to commit suicide you don’t just go oh well they wanted to die so you let them die like you you help them you you try to get to a place where they’re not dying and uh yeah you know that unfortunately like that for me and at least there is something to be said for the risk of death was something i thought about when i was using it was something that was on my mind like i could really die doing this [ _ ] i think at that point in my life i didn’t really care which was different but i that risk of death was definitely there i don’t know i still thought i was immune yeah kind of like how i feel about covet now like i can’t touch me i’m good yeah i it’s interesting i i like i in general i mean i do disagree on principle that just consequences make people adjust but i get it i get that there are consequences that can help us learn you know we life is an experiment we really don’t know what the [ _ ] we’re doing and so you have some consequences and you’re like oh that doesn’t feel good i’ll do something different next time not a terrible theory at its base right and not to stop you there but for me that’s part of my story a lot of times when i share it like i’ll say i love using drugs i love the feel that heroin gave me i stopped using because of the consequences yeah i hear you say that on here i’m always questioning that yeah i’m curious only for myself i’ve been like i’m like i don’t know is that really a thing that was on was that on the drug court episode he said that too i think so i think i say when i share and and part of my personal story i mean i i guess for me the question is why right i’m not doubting that you love getting high but like what is it about me that loved getting high what was it that wasn’t there that felt like that the whatever the high gave me or the release or the relief or the calmness what was that providing and why can’t i find a different way to give it to myself right like it’s it’s not really the questioning that i was it a useful tool for me it’s just i don’t know necessarily that that means that i’m this guy that just loves getting high i think this means that oh there was some stuff going on and what’s the message about that stuff that was going on and how can i address that in maybe some ways that have different consequences yeah and i guess i just like the exploring alternate realities kind of thing like just being in different completely different mental states like my goal was never like i’m just gonna use a little bit like i always wanted to get [ _ ] obliterated to like you know to get to some different mental plane or whatever and i don’t know i just i i agree that what i’ve found for myself now or there are other ways to get there and that that one seems pretty dangerous you know using and the consequences seemed pretty high for the reward like a the risk reward for me wasn’t there anymore i feel like my different plane of existence in that aspect was like non-existence that’s where i was trying to get i was trying to get to where i didn’t even realize i was here anymore hmm

i wanted to use till i was nodding i wanted to use till i was not unto the point where i wasn’t even aware i was high anymore which is kind of pointless like you missed the whole supposed high that’s why i guess i questioned this did i love getting high things yeah i didn’t want to stop there i wasn’t like oh i got a nice buzz now stop here like no i keep going until there’s nothing yeah i don’t know if i did or not i don’t yeah all right bringing us back so yeah the idea of consequences isn’t necessarily terrible and while i don’t really particularly agree that we can just have enough consequences to change people completely i get the the general theory that people of that belief system come from right like hey if you end up homeless you will not like the conditions and you will change your life around get a job and okay i don’t believe it but i understand that but yeah there’s the line of like at some point when death is the actual consequence nobody’s learning or growing from that like it becomes an invalid point then like okay you want to let the guy be homeless because he doesn’t want to work fine let him be homeless and hopefully he doesn’t die of starvation or freezing to death and gets his life together but to let the like the only alternative to a safe use site or or keeping people alive is well [ _ ] let him die basically and that just doesn’t make sense and it i mean to me that the idea of just [ _ ] let him die is contrary to to a big narrative in this country which is to rise from the ashes overcome the adversity become you know triumphant over your demons like that’s a major narrative that gets played out throughout our society and people love to hear those stories you know what i mean they love to hear the guy that was homeless in the streets you know doing drugs and committing crime that has now changed his life and is running you know a recovery center or doing whatever like people love that story and i don’t think they connect the two things like well if you don’t keep people alive long enough to hopefully have that experience you know you’re cutting a lot of those stories out before people ever get the chance yeah yeah it’s not like the guy who got it together or managed to find the help he needed or the support he needed was any fundamentally different than the guy who died it just he got the opportunity somehow and maybe that’s what we’ll find you know down the road from some of these people at the safe consumption sites is that you know they have a story of success later and they’re like oh thank god that place kept me alive long enough to get to this place right and and sometimes like for me so i never had like an active overdose where i ended up in hospital or needing resuscitated or anything like that [ _ ] completely dumb luck you know what i mean it wasn’t ever anything that i did to prevent that when i got heroin and did heroin i never tested it for purity or knew how much it was like well this is about how much i did the last time so this is how much i’m going to do this time and how do i feel and you know it just really and of course they say fentanyl kind of changed that whole game you know for for overdoses fentanyl has been a huge huge contributor to the overdose deaths um and maybe that’s what’s uh propelled the need for stuff like this yeah yeah i’m with you i didn’t uh there was no safe using in my variety of using it was like hey one pill did this i wonder what two does let’s try four and what kept me alive probably more than anything was i was broke and didn’t get a lot of money and got stuff that was really stomped on in the middle of the city that’s probably what kept me alive i couldn’t get the good [ _ ] and didn’t have enough money to get enough of it um and dumb luck like you said yeah it’s not like experienced users don’t overdose you know it’s like there’s it’s just so dangerous nowadays i mean i don’t know it’s a terrible terrible consequence i mean and when i was using people there was a few people that overdosed in the time you know during my active use but it wasn’t like it is today yeah yeah i uh a friend who we were using with went out i don’t know at this point i really looking back don’t know how serious it was whatever we ended up calling emergency services and they did whatever they do and she was fine and then you know going to use one time on the street behind a house we ran into somebody else because apparently that was a popular using spot behind that house um who was you know blue looking but i believe she was alive after that emergency services encounter too so you know heard about people and all that but it wasn’t a i didn’t have a huge network when i was out there it was like by myself and you know it’s just sad to hear people later on that have passed but i i don’t know i’ve never had the answers i i think one of the things that stood out to me and and one of the reasons i wanted to bring this topic in and i think you know billy kind of came up with the topic but it’s been on my mind a little bit is like right after this opened i was on instagram i’m scrolling through and somebody from the recovery community and i’m not you know gonna put anybody on blast or anything but they had posted uh there’s been five overdose already overdoses already at the new safe consumption site we need to get rid of this [ _ ] we need to not allow this crap in our neighborhoods and looking through the comments like there was a ton of comments like people are passionate about this and there was a few that you know kind of go along with things that i think about it but there was mostly in this hundred and some comments people agreeing people from our recovery community like this is bad for us this is terrible we shouldn’t have this and i was like wow i had no idea that the recovery community was so against this right like i don’t know why it’s a huge shock thinking about the way we’ve kind of rebelled against suboxone and and methadone and all those you know medicated assisted treatments but like it was it was shocking to me i was like god everybody’s like down in this place and talking about how it’s awful for our community and people won’t find recovery and you’re just enabling people to get high and you know can’t believe there’s already been five overdose debt or overdoses and that was one of the funny things about it is that’s the headline from the particular news establishment that they get their information from but the fact is like you and i had talked about at that time when i told you about it that’s five people that didn’t die that would have if they weren’t there possibly right and it’s the same idea as like you know syringe exchange it’s like giving people clean needles doesn’t make them go out and shoot heroin it’s not like if we start handing clean needles out on route 40 that people that never used heroin are gonna go oh yeah this seems like the right idea at the time and it’s the same with a safe injection site these people are not you know people that are in chaotic use are not gonna go oh well there’s no really safe place to use so i think i’ll just not use today like or i’ll not use this amount like they’re gonna use and do the same thing whether you tell them it’s okay or not like they’re not looking for your approval um but in fairness i was one of those people for a long time probably the first 10 years of my recovery if not longer i was you know medicated assisted treatment is legal drug use and it’s terrible and it’s not a good way to treat people and all this stuff is enabling and what the [ _ ] and it really took some soul-searching on my part to be like all right so what is what is most important is it most important to me that the life choices that i’ve made and the way that i’ve chose to handle my addiction that that be quote-unquote right and that that be justified as the best way to do it or is it more important that people aren’t suffering and dying as a result of this disease and you know we can argue about qualities of life and some of that stuff i get it but if the choices are between dying and using street drugs or you know using a medical grade drug in a safe environment i think i’ll take that over death you know yeah yeah and and david alluded to this point on the episode where we had him on to talk about his book the weight of air but i want to really entrench this point with you so listen up dear listener if they gave out free drugs free you know government uh watched over and maybe processed or whatever if they gave out free drugs at a location and they gave you clean needles and they would watch over you to make sure you didn’t die they say they set this up right in your hometown would your parents go there and start using would your spouse or your kids just automatically go there and start using what about your closest friends but any of them decide that since the government is giving out free drugs and clean needles and a safe place to use them that they now all just want to be heroin users would they do that so if nobody you [ _ ] know would actually make that decision why do you think people are gonna write like do you think there’s other people that you don’t know that are gonna randomly go start getting high well i will be honest so one of and i’m a proponent of not just decriminalization but legalization of drugs but i am curious like we know that alcohol is one of the most easily accessible drugs so we see a really high rate of alcohol use in minors and adolescents and now with marijuana being more legally available some of those rates have gone up and i don’t know that there’s a correlation or not i mean i’m just curious like if we did make access to other drugs easy would it introduce people at younger ages i mean i would hope not well i would imagine you would have to be 18 to go use it at these places yeah but it’s like alcohol you know i mean you’re not supposed to have access to alcohol till you’re 21 but i don’t know about what world you lived in but i never had much of a problem getting access to alcohol from 16 on it was pretty easy well and and so in that vein i actually say my idea limits how much people can get because if you are given it on site and monitored and you have to use it on site you can’t take it with you anywhere well now we don’t have anywhere else to sell it like people aren’t going to buy it from the guy in the corner so now there’s no dealers that exist now there’s no access for teenagers to get to it unlike alcohol which is still out here freely in the world and maybe we put alcohol in this hey you can drink as much as you want you just have to come to this site to do it right now all drugs are contained at this monitored site and nobody has access to them that’s not supposed to so now i i think everything goes down from that view you just fixed it oh [ _ ] god damn it why don’t they call you right why do they not call me so back to the safe injection site so my understanding of how they work in general this is a general rule because i’ve never actually been to one but they provide booths or cubicles or in some cases a little more private area that is monitored in some cases by a medical person or in some cases by other peers how do you get the private area do you got to be a vip i don’t know i was wondering that too because the one picture i looked at it showed a couple of cubicles and then it showed one corner with like those medical uh like screens around it and you can see someone’s feet underneath that for somebody who has to get naked to get high yeah or i’m like why are they back there i’m only injecting in my penis maybe it’s or where they have to inject is huh there was a girl in my neighborhood that stripped instantly every time she got high like literally just got naked like would stand on the street naked like waving at people just because she was high i think because she was high like every time she got high that was her initial reaction was just take her clothes off like tequila makes her clothes come off apparently heroin made her clothes come off but i mean maybe that’s the thing like maybe they need the private room for that individual that just well and i was curious like how do you monitor the people in the private room do you gotta like holler out of you like still awake over there you can’t be nodding out i think i mean the doctors poke their head in the private room they don’t yeah wait for you so you can probably still kick your head in but yeah so anyway you can go into one of these cubicles or one into these private areas if you get the private area and you you know can use whatever drugs and in those areas they have uh safe syringes you know clean syringes clean use implements uh the one i heard warm towels because apparently warm towels help clean your skin but they also help to raise the veins so that you can find the veins easier which i found fascinating i found it fascinating that they said that like a lot of the people who came there were really loving the warm sorry okay never thought about it but yeah cool that’s awesome i think they’re getting a facial i’m gonna shoot up and then put my worm down well i keep picturing the strip club when you say the private rooms i’m like i’ll take the bottle service you know slip the person to 20. like i’ll just go in the back room today feeling spicy but it’s a you know it’s a clean safe environment where you can use the safe as possible you know well and apparently the article said that like they have a a living room type area where people kind of hang out or whatever which is fascinating and i’m like okay that makes sense you get high you don’t want to leave you got a nice couch cool that’s awesome but then you were telling me the piece about you can smoke crack there and i’m picturing like for lack of better terminology like eight crackheads right running around speaking out windows that was how i used that yeah just i’m like is that safe like we’re all thinking we’re killing each other and or even i’ve never used the meth but i hear the the the crystal meth is like even worse with the paranoia psychosis yeah imagine the people like all up in there wondering what’s going on all thinking each other’s out to get each other it’s like a game of [ _ ] perverse clue or something yeah i imagine and i could be wrong but i think you would need some pretty intense training to i guess after experience you know carries something through that but foo yeah and and that’s one of the fascinating parts of this that blew my mind is there there’s two safe consumption sites in new york right now and they operate differently because really this is all an experiment we’re just trying to figure this [ _ ] out we’re trying to throw spaghetti at a wall let’s see what’s right see what works best one is operated by medical professionals and the other said was run by peers and it made the distinction in the article i read peers who actively use still yeah i was like really you got high-ass people watching over other high-ass people well i thought about that and i thought so immediately i thought you can’t have high people watching somebody who’s high so i thought they probably have some stipulations around that there’s probably a program director or somebody that oversees like just like any job like you can drink at home but you can’t come to work drunk you know what i mean it’s i would imagine that’s maybe the case i hope but who knows we got the high people watching us i don’t know maybe they know what to look out for all right see what you got this week i see better when my eyes are pinned but yeah so the big i guess or one of the the big uh criticisms of some of these obviously besides the the using part is that you are as we’ve sort of joked about though you are inviting a certain uh for lack of a better word element a certain amount of of chaos i mean it’s called chaotic use so you’re inviting a certain amount of chaos not just into that facility because from what i understand these don’t just uh exist on their own they’re within other facilities that were already conducting like syringe exchange and some other services so these were places that had experience and were already dealing with other addictive issues but you are definitely inviting a chaotic element into your neighborhood into the neighborhood where these things exist and uh i can see how that could be a little scary or that could be a little uh maybe not so great for the neighborhood yeah yeah i can i can hear that argument and and i mean i think some of the residents of the neighborhoods were you know frustrated that a lot of the people so i guess they get information like location information from the people who come to the sites but a lot of the participants weren’t necessarily from the immediate area which i wonder if there’s some kind of worry about people in the immediate area of like oh i can’t go there because people will know and i live here and that kind of idea i don’t and and again this is me talking out the side of my mouth because i don’t know what [ __ ] i’m talking about but i don’t picture that these are being put into areas where this isn’t already a problem like i get the feeling that you know generally if you go into a city uh the recovery houses the needle exchange or or you know supply of safe use tools they’re in areas where they’re needed like they’re not just some randomly far off place where people don’t have access to go get them they’re right there where people are on ground zero so i get the feeling that this problem was already in their neighborhood and you know some of the things i read it’s not just about keeping people alive even though that is the main point there’s also like we’re keeping all this uh trash that should not be on the streets whether that’s drug paraphernalia baggies use tools that are dangerous for people to accidentally step on like all this is being contained in this one spot too so it’s i’m like well they’re kind of cleaning up your neighborhood like i get it you’re bitching about it but and that’s definitely the hope you know because as you said these at least the the two that exist now were not in like neighborhoods that didn’t already have a lot of problems with chaotic use and and people actively using in the streets and things like that and uh in our area it’s up towards you know kensington in philadelphia is another area where it’s pretty much an open drug use market already you know what i mean if you go up there and walk around and from what i understand that’s how these neighborhoods were already before these sites existed um so the hope is that you’ll bring some of that element off of the streets and more indoors into an enclosed area in other countries at least they haven’t seen an increase in crime rates in those areas but they haven’t seen a significant decrease either um so there’s not a lot of evidence that it will decrease crime but like you said if if it keeps people who are actively using you know indoors if i have kids in that neighborhood you know do i want them seeing people shooting up and nodding out in alleyways i mean is that something and then how much can we do to clean up these neighborhoods by giving people a place to safely dispose and some of that are ideas within these facilities that you can perpetuate i know we tend to think not me but society tends to look at addicts as these degenerate no good horrible people but when i was using i still had ethics and morals and a lot of what i did you know went against those morals and stuff but within clinics if you can explain to people hey look we want to be safe and we want to keep kids safe and most people whether they’re using drugs or not still feel like that’s a really good idea you know most people aren’t out trying to harm people this episode has been brought to you in part by voices of hope inc a non-profit recovery organization made up of people in recovery family members and allies together members strive to protect the dignity of those that use drugs and those in recovery by advocating for treatment harm reduction and support resources and mentoring please visit us at www.voicesofhopemaryland.org

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that’s tricky i mean i i i had very few morals and ethics towards the end there of my using but i’m picturing like if it was convenient i mean if this was a place that was convenient to me and you know i could easily access yeah i mean why why wouldn’t i go get fresh stuff and turn in my old stuff like i didn’t have it out to like oh i want to dirty up the street like that wasn’t on my mind it was just most of my choices were out of like what makes the most sense for me at this point it’s thinking of bringing the crime into the neighborhood again if we go back to just giving this [ __ ] away to people at the places they have no reason to commit crime yeah crime’s all about getting money for drugs yeah because that was part of the part of the argument against is that you know we’re giving a place where people use you’re going to encourage dealers to to be in those areas i mean it’s just too easy

you know they don’t have to travel they’re not going to travel yeah yeah i’m looking at this it says uh over the first two weeks you know 43 overdoses were reversed that’s 43 people that we don’t know if they would have definitely died but chances are the good majority if you’re off in a place alone somewhere not around anybody and you know nobody finds you yeah that’s that’s what we know happened so in two weeks 43 lives were saved basically i just i don’t know and and i guess going back to this idea of the community pushback like it’s interesting that our communities especially this isn’t like i said this isn’t like you know some fancy ritzy neighborhood where they’ve never had drug use problems around and we’re just throwing this in there to mix it all up for him like this is an area that already struggled but it’s interesting that the pushback immediately is we got to get this place out of here we got to shut it down we got to get rid of it like that’s the pushback to the idea in my head right that’s not the pushback to the practice because you don’t even know what’s going to happen in the practice yet you haven’t given it time to see i mean this these interviews with community people were two weeks in right so i guess just why don’t we default to this other idea of like okay look we’re in the community i have some reasonable concerns about this let me go talk to them let’s have like an open forum with the community and and the people who run the place right let’s have an open dialogue so that we can a see how well it does work what happens over time let’s give it six months see what changes do take effect we can voice our concerns we can voice things we see in the community like oh look i i think you’re helping but i do see that this behavior has picked up or changed or adjusted and we don’t really like that in this community and then maybe the center has the ability to like have ideas of what to do to try to curb that particular behavior right like it’s the pushback to the idea is like you just need to get the [ _ ] out of our neighborhood but it’s interesting that that’s our default instead of defaulting to like well let’s see what progress this brings and then let’s work with this location to see what else we can work on maybe they can adjust their practices a little bit that would take care of some of these issues that we find arise in the neighborhood yeah i mean that’s a sentiment that’s expressed in a lot of areas of life i would say i mean you find the same thing with homeless shelters with treatment centers we’ve had it in this area with recovery housing you know recovery houses wanting to open in certain neighborhoods i mean people will throw an uproar you know what i mean well this is my neighborhood i don’t want you know these people in my neighborhood it’s fine if you do it somewhere else just not here and i mean i don’t know how you decide if not here where like you know and that that is a sentiment that we run into a lot with with addiction services is no everyone thinks we need them everyone thinks they’re great but no one wants them where the people are and we don’t put them where the people are and they’re not easily accessible um people won’t typically go to them i know i saw some research from the sites in canada and they said they really only uh found decreases or significant decreases in overdoses in a very limited radius to those uh safe use sites and that outside of those areas as you got a few miles outside of those areas the overdose rates were still the same so what that you know tells us is that people aren’t going to travel typically aren’t going to travel for miles and miles you know to go to a safe use site but as i said if it’s if it’s there and it’s convenient and easily accessible then they probably will so does that mean we need you know dozens of them all over the city i don’t know or if we gave out free drugs there everybody would go 20 and 30 miles like [ _ ] yeah i’d move states i’d move countries like cat is giving out free drugs i’m there [ _ ] [ _ ] baltimore i don’t want to be here anymore like yeah i feel like yeah either either one of those works i guess you know i i don’t see my vision coming true in my lifetime unfortunately uh you know the difference between using narcan on like an american versus a canadian so for the american you narcan and they wake up and they’re pissed off and they’re angry that you [ _ ] their high up and everything and a canadian wakes up and they’re like sorry i just made that [ _ ] up um yeah i i don’t know i i definitely think we do default to this idea of like yes not in my neighborhood and this is what it leads to elkton a local community government city i don’t know what the [ _ ] you call out then is it a city i guess uh i guess township city whatever it’s a local area around us they were against having methadone clinics so they created a whole new law for elkton that you can’t have certain and and they worded it in a way that could keep out methadone clinics without saying we’re keeping out methadone clinics right and my mental health practice found the perfect little place that they wanted to buy that was within elkton that had like you know space to provide mental health services and there was like room out back to take nice walks and participate in nature and we could do some cool stuff there and we couldn’t get it because we’re zoned as a medical facility and that’s how they worded it to keep the [ _ ] methadone out so now you’ve restricted access to mental health services that are you know on the up and up because you have a shady [ _ ] problem with methadone clinics that help people right and that’s the same with you know voices of hope and some of their services like they’ve had to find a facility outside of town the township or whatever you call it you know the definition of the town limits they could not have a facility in well within town limits most things are easy walking distance they’re on the bus line they’re easily accessible you know it’s where the most resources are and yet you’re going to take a resource and push them to the outer limits so that now it makes them harder and less accessible and you know good job yeah it like creates yourself like those those ideas create barriers and you know that’s as of right now that’s one of the biggest impediments and like we’re in a rural area this isn’t a city where it’s easy to get around and i mean granted like in this case you know voices isn’t too far from town it’s within walking distance on a decent day when it’s cold it’s a little bit of a hike but to get a little further out to some of the recovery housing or or where you know the the women’s house you know is a few miles out you know do we really want people walking miles to get access to services you know up major roadways you know you just create these barriers by having these weird weird laws or i gotta be honest though the the women that are new in recovery in the women’s recovery house they’re not going to walk somebody’s going to pick them up i’m just saying some might give them a ride no that’s very sexist of me um but unfortunately probably true more often than it’s not yeah i just i think elton [ _ ] themselves out of you know having services because they’re uh i don’t know what you’re gonna call it’s not racist like because they’re offended by the idea they’re they think people who struggle with substance misuse are are bad and they want to get rid of them their take on that has caused them to miss out on other services that they would probably love to have in their town like mental health services and i i just you [ _ ] yourself when you try to you know get around all this in a shady way of like well we can’t say we don’t want methadone in our town we’ll just say we don’t have more medical facilities that’s it we’ll fix it that way and yeah well yeah i mean i can’t say that it’s not somewhat true it’s like when you provide services the people that need those services are going to come you know and so if you let’s say a homeless shelter when you start providing homeless services you’re going to get people come to your area that need access to those homeless services and you know there’s a trade-off i mean do you only serve the people that are from your local community or do you become a haven for for people you know i don’t know i guess it depends on what side of your humanitarian ledger you know where that is and if you gave up for drugs people would never [ _ ] leave and you wouldn’t have to worry about it you would just have a warehouse somewhere and you would never see it they wouldn’t want to leave they wouldn’t they don’t need to be on a bus line [ _ ] they need to go i got my drugs i’m here i don’t know maybe that’s a shitty way to say it but when i was using if you’d had a facility that gave me free i wasn’t going nowhere else like that’s probably true why would i need to for what what do they got food who needs that [ _ ] well and from what i understand that’s what typically used to happen before this like war on drugs in the italy like you used to be able to go to a doctor and they would prescribe you heroin or morphine at the time and you would just go to the doctor and you’d get your morphine and they’d shoot you up while you were there and then you’d leave and some people had like two twice a day i think it was from from some of the things that i’ve read it’s like and there were programs like you were on a morphine program and you came in the morning and it came at night and you got your shot and then you went off and did what you did hopefully i mean the idea was that you could just go out and go to work or do whatever you needed to do but that that was considered a medical condition and they were treating you medically for that condition where’s jenny i’m having nostalgia for a time i didn’t even participate in

that’s what people mean by the good old days they were getting morphine at the doctor they didn’t give a [ _ ] about politics definitely what they mean uh so you know one of the things i found interesting they don’t even necessarily revive people with naloxone all the time this isn’t just narcan they’re generally it said more often than not using a simple oxygen tank because if you catch an overdose early on that’s all it takes to reverse the course of it and that is wild to me and then they said when they do use naloxone they’re micro dosing it i’m like what the [ _ ] yeah wow i just all these concepts i feel like we don’t know anything about and this is just another great benefit to the addict like you know because if you don’t know if when you use naloxone on people it brings them out of their overdose but it also eliminates their high as well it blocks your opioid receptors so you quickly lose your high you know so we’ve i mean i’ve heard stories and i’m sure they’re true i’ve never done it but that people have brought someone out of an overdose and then the people coming out of the overdose are pissed off and angry because you just ruined their high unless you’re canadian sorry but yeah i guess so if you have a trained uh prompt medical response to these things you can do it in a safe manner with just oxygen i mean not only that but you’re not injecting a drug into somebody’s body which to me if you can do anything without injecting drugs into people it’s always better right right there is a drawback uh it says right here visitors have to bring their own drugs so that’s the downside of this yeah yeah would be much nicer if they didn’t but it’s also the the elimination of you know the impact of these overdoses on our medical facilities uh the spread of diseases you know the reduction of the spread of infectious diseases in our community like there’s some of those things that will be interesting to see you know what happens are we reducing some of our demand on our medical staff which right now with kovid we hear is a huge problem yeah yeah i it would be nice and that’s and that’s another piece of it right when you talk about people who don’t give a [ _ ] about people who are shooting drugs okay that’s fine you don’t give a [ _ ] but maybe your neighborhood’s cleaner because some of the you know trash or leftover medical waste from people using is left at this facility instead of on your streets which that’s always a plus and and you’re saving taxpayer money they’re not calling the ambulance for these overdoses right they don’t have to they’re right there they’re on the scene they’re doing it themselves like where’s the drawback to that saving money because i don’t know uh how much is an ambulance now eight hundred dollars a thousand dollars for ambulance right and you can bet the homeless person is not paying for that ambulance right correct we are through our insurance and through these other things right right so i mean that’s a draw it said uh the biden administration again because this is still federally illegal the biden administration hasn’t really given any idea of where they’re going to stand on it like literally the federal government could step in and shut this down whenever they want they haven’t but they also haven’t really been like hey let’s try it out let’s see what happens we’re all we’re on board we’re not going to come shut it down so they haven’t really taken a stance at all and maybe that’s something we could you know if we believe that this might be a good idea press whoever whether it’s biden or the next administration like let’s have a stance on this let’s be okay with it let’s try yeah we would need a change in legislation to make it you know quote unquote legal um that’s there was supposed to be a safe uh use site in philadelphia that actually got held up specifically because of that federal law that’s actually what i think it was supposed to open back in i want to say october it was actually supposed to open before the new york ones did but then it was legally challenged and it’s still being argued in court to whether they can you know legally operate right right and i think i mean even if you don’t change the legislation even if you just give the public stance hey look this is not something we’re interested in going after prosecuting right now you know uh yeah wasn’t that what like with marijuana right now isn’t marijuana still federally a crime they still have not changed that right right but their stance is you know public that we’re just not doing anything we’re letting other people figure that out right now and i ran into this looking at you know going to a nude beach one time it was like that was in the description it’s like look this is illegal technically in the county but federally it’s on federal property so there’s no federal stipulation against it and they’ve publicly said we have better things to do than lock up naked people like so it’s right it’s on record and it makes people feel safer about using that environment like okay look we know where this space is we know they’re not going to come do anything so we can you know feel free to participate and enjoy it and how we see fit i mean the scary part of that though just to is that the federal government can change their mind in any administration or even in this administration they can change their mind and go nope we think it’s terrible we’re shutting them down and all of a sudden this thing can be closed and when you’re trying to operate or run some of those facilities one there’s not this abundance of money that people are handing you to open safe use sites it’s probably difficult to get funding and to have continued funding for long-term success but when you also have the fear that at any moment someone can step in and shut you down like it’s it’s really difficult a lot of people go into this work and just be like hey we’re just gonna push now do the best we can and we’ll see what happens and they’re courageous people but what you lose in that is people that i don’t want to say that aren’t courageous but you i mean not everyone can operate in that world if you have a family and kids and you’re trying to invest in a career and you have some sort of medical training or ability you might have a lot of compassion for people with addiction issues but you’re like ah that’s pretty it’s pretty risky you know that’s a risky endeavor to get into when i don’t know if you know at our next president they might decide these places can’t exist and you’re going to shut them down so you know we could change some legislations and hopefully attract more better brighter minds to this field to to help solve this you know addiction issue yeah so the u.s representative nicole malia to take us as i think how you say her name represents parts of south brooklyn staten island and has introduced a bill in congress that would prohibit organizations that have overdose prevention centers apart of them from receiving any federal funding including for unrelated services and as publicly said i’m opposed to the heroin injection sites because i believe it is only encouraging and enabling people who have this addiction and is not actually doing anything to help them i don’t is it encouraging and enabling to people do you think um i mean i guess that’s more of a personal decision but that it’s not actually helping them i think is pretty incorrect um i think that’s almost factually incorrect because we do know that more people engage with treatment options through needle exchange we don’t know about safe use sites because that’s new but we know through needle exchange that more people access treatment through those than any other public service that’s out there so i can’t imagine a safe use site where they’re also providing these wouldn’t you know because most of these sites it’s not like they just open a place and say here come use drugs they have you know addiction counseling there they have resources they have therapies you know things like that and i mean they i don’t think they’re meant to encourage people to use drugs they’re meant to give them a safe place and encourage them to like be safe and smart yeah and somebody made a point like if you’re not at this location where are you you’re in the ihop bathroom right in you know kfc’s restroom like you’re gonna be somewhere doing this like you’re not gonna you know be nowhere you’re not gonna disappear because the site goes away and that’s what i when it says encouraging and enabling like again i don’t know anybody in my life that would necessarily go out and start a new way of life of heroin use or drug use just because some place open that allowed it or accepted it like these are people who are going to be doing it somewhere and so it’s just kind of giving them a communal space to do it safely and and maybe not detract so much from the community surrounding it yeah and it’s the the i guess i’m gonna call it old school idea that like you know shaming people and ridiculing and moralizing people is somehow going to make them want to change and in fact i think at least in my case it served the opposite effect like i already felt and shamed and embarrassed and and full of self-hate you know and just piling more of that on did not make me want to change it made me want to use even more to cover all that change right you’re trying to get away from those feelings and the idea of you know a lot of these harm reduction methods is that we’re meeting people where they are and telling them hey this is where you are but you still matter you’re still a human being that deserves to be treated with dignity and respect you’re still a person that is loved and we care about your health and safety even if you don’t even if you’re not that caring about yourself we care about you and we’ll keep you alive and we’ll keep you safe yeah i think all the things you’re talking about just serve to further alienate me not only from the community at large around me but alienate me from even the belief that there was hope for me right all these ideas of how terrible i was and the ways people acted towards people who had you know drug misuse issues substance problems it was like yeah that just means that there’s no hope for me i’m so separate from these kind of people that that you know i would probably be best if i just die that’s probably the best option because i ain’t nothing else coming from this yeah i mean that’s how i felt about myself at the end you know the best i could do for most of the people in my life was to die you know my life wasn’t really worth it right at least that would bring them the relief and not having to worry about it anymore thank god that didn’t happen yeah and i i think we’re becoming more aware of how sort of intertwined you know mental health issues are in addiction um how you know much addiction now we’re coming to learn is born out of trauma you know and these are all things that with the right treatments can be addressed you know if we can just get people connected to the right resources connected to the the whether it’s medical or you know therapeutic or whatever you know needs they have if we can just connect them to those right resources they can find the avenue to address why they’re in this place right anything else you want to point out about safe you say safe consumption site no i think it’s you know fascinating to to watch um i am grateful for myself that i don’t have to frequent one today um i have thought that if they open one in this area like would i want to work there as a person in recovery i don’t i don’t know that might be hard um i would like to think i would you know but i’m not so sure it’s it’s tough i mean but i guess my only message would be if you’re a person in recovery you know try to approach it less from a judgmental point of view and more from a humanitarian point of view and just because i’m a person in recovery i still look at active users or my same brothers and sisters as recovering people in a meeting like there’s no to me there’s no difference we’re all just in different uh places with our struggle at the moment but you know people that are using aren’t any different than me they’re they’re my brothers and sisters too and i want them to be safe and loved and you know healthy and not die yeah yeah all those things and i would say for me if you listen to this and you have a beef with you know uh safe use sites like let us know i’m curious what is your your beef what is your issue what do you think might happen right because i i want to hear the arguments i want to explore it more i want to see if maybe maybe there is something i haven’t thought of that makes these less beneficial than more beneficial but let us know about that and and i don’t know man i just it’s hard for me to see the drawback i guess for me right now i just i think they’re useful i don’t think they’re making people turn to a life of drugs that wouldn’t already be there anyway i think we’re just helping people stay alive yeah and i guess i think you know even if it’s enabling like aren’t the benefits worth the enabling like i mean to me it seems like they are but i don’t know free drugs for all all right go out have a safe week

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