Safe injection sites save money but also they saves lives.
Philadelphia has, for decades, had a reputation of being a major heroin haven on the East Coast, with its heroin being of such high quality that people purposely moved there for that purpose alone. In recent years with the opiate epidemic steadily getting worse, this reputation only grew more steadily — and then dropped off with the introduction of fentanyl analogues such as acetylfentanyl, butyrfentanyl, and carfentanil (drugs whose names correspond to their chemical formula that are dozens to hundreds of times more potent than morphine) into the heroin supply. Nevertheless, people still swarm to Philadelphia in droves. Puerto Rico drops its heroin addicts off into Philadelphia and people from the surrounding counties and states still come to the city seeking its once-legendary (and now extinct) pure fix.
With all of these people going to the city seeking an almost mythical fix that’s been tainted with chemicals humans can’t even consume, it’s not a surprise that the number of fatal and nonfatal overdoses in the city has risen to astonishing and record-breaking numbers. From sidewalks and convenience store bathrooms to buses and trains and even the basements and bedrooms of their parents and partners, overdoses are happening and killing addicts and leaving wounds in the hearts of their loved ones.
Those who are lucky to survive a serious overdose are left changed by the experience. My most serious overdose convinced me that I needed recovery again, after relapsing with three years clean. Yet, overdoses may not be enough to convince some addicts that they need to seek recovery. And, honestly, that’s okay, there’s nothing wrong with not getting it the first time. Addiction isn’t a rational or reasonable thing, it’s a mental illness that often accompanies other mental illnesses.
People who have experience with addiction or with addicts know this about us — they know that many of us simply don’t understand that we have a problem and that we often don't know that we need help until we’ve reached our bottom. For those who don’t know, a “bottom” is a point where people with substance abuse issues realize that we have a problem and hit an emotional, physical, financial, or social wall in our lives. It’s the point where we realize that we’ve, in some way, destroyed our lives in one way or another. Reaching a bottom can take months or it can take years. My first bottom came after years of using and drinking, but my second came only after a few months of using after my relapse. Each person is different.
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