Until recently, Ron M would take illicit drugs in what space he could find: public restrooms, subway alleyways or just in the street. He often used alone; the possibility of a fatal overdose was high.
That’s why the East Harlem overdose prevention center has been such a blessing to him.
“It’s saved many lives since it’s been here,” said Ron, 31. “It keeps us from having to get high in bad places.”
Ron, whose last name has been withheld for privacy, has used heroin for years, but the New York opening of the nation’s first two sanctioned overdose prevention centers (OPCs) on 30 November has significantly increased his chances of survival.
The center provides those who use substances with a safe and clean space to do so, and with help available in case of an overdose, which has already helped avert many deaths.
“This place is a blessing – and if there were more, it would save so many lives,” Ron said.
The stress, anxiety and isolation of the Covid-19 pandemic, combined with widespread contamination in the illicit drug market from the synthetic opioid fentanyl, has worsened America’s overdose epidemic. More than 100,000 Americans died of an accidental overdose in the year ending April 2021, a sharp increase compared with the previous year. The largest increase was among Black men.
For many people struggling with problematic substance use, traditional methods of abstinence-based help – such as month-long rehab stays, or 12-step meetings such as Narcotics Anonymous – have failed to work. Such interventions can even increase the chances of a fatal overdose if a patient relapses.
Source: Gloria Oladipo, The Guardian, 25th January 2022