Not-Safe drug sites enable zombies

The argument in favor of so-called safe injection sites, which are not safe,  can be reduced to two words: Saves lives.

So-called safe injection site (Photo: Boston Globe)

That is true, although the number to be saved is very small, 24-76, the city estimates.

There are two arguments against: 1- It is illegal. 2- It enables addiction. 

The illegal argument was knocked down when the Safehouse people — who are behind the nonprofit approved by the city to set up the site — found a judge to say it was not in violation of law. U.S. Attorney William McSwain is appealing the judge’s expansionist decision, but drug use remains illegal. [It was later ruled illegal.]

As for argument 2, let me quote City Council President Darrell Clarke: “I don’t fundamentally understand how you get to a point where you have a person stop using drugs by enabling them to use drugs in a quote-unquote safe manner.”


In other words, do you open cocktail lounges to alcoholics who want to quit? How about tobacco safe houses for people who want to quit smoking? You don’t normalize the behavior you are trying to stop.

The Not-Safe injection sites are not even designed for people who want to quit. Just the opposite. They exist for people who want to shoot up. 

Where you have drug addicts you have open drug use and drug needles and drug dealers. This is all one fabric. And drug dealers are among the top reason for Philly’s sky-high homicide rate.

Why would you welcome something that threatens the cleanliness, property values, health and safety of your neighborhood?

This is a big topic and I have to cover a lot of ground to explain why this is a bad idea.

We are told we should accommodate these people because they are our neighbors, it is not their fault, and is just a medical problem. 

The addicts — we are not supposed to call them “addicts” the enablers say — “are no different than anyone with high blood pressure, or diabetes, or cancer. We don’t question the fact that people go for treatment for these diseases,” Mayor Jim Kenney told Fox29’s Jeff Cole.

Kenney is mouthing a popular platitude, and illustrates what New York Sen. Daniel Patrick Moyniham called “defining deviancy down.” That means we downgrade or redefine crime so we won’t have to deal with it.

Some even define Philadelphia’s gun homicide explosion as a public health issue. Really. 

Here’s my response: People do not voluntarily give themselves high blood pressure, diabetes or cancer. When they voluntarily stick a needle in their arm, or swallow a pill not intended for them, they do so knowing they are breaking the law, knowing the outcome will be addiction.

Second, contrary to what the mayor suggested, addicts don’t get treatment at Not-Safe injection sites. They get supplies, not treatment. 

Hey, did you notice I said “sites,” plural?

In the runup to the launch of the city-endorsed shooting gallery, we heard about the “safe injection” site (singular) in Vancouver, or Toronto.

Kensington says no to site (Photo: BBC)

From the jump I wondered about the efficacy of a Philadelphia “legal” shooting gallery in Kensington, the Walmart of Heroin, where it was expected to be located. Did I believe that a drug zombie living in East Falls needing a fix was going to take regional rail to the Jefferson Station, then grab the Market-Frankford El to get to Kensington, the epicenter of Philly’s drug problem?

I did not believe that, and neither do the people who run Safehouse. They know — but do not say — to be effective you might need as many as 20 shooting galleries in neighborhoods around the city. The mayor deflected when Cole asked how many city drug houses were planned. 

Kenney went all Sgt. Schultz — “I know nothing!” 

He wants the Not-Safe shooting galleries, but pretends there is a Colgate Invisible Shield between Safehouse and City Hall. As if they don’t conspire and plot together.

As the chosen South Philly location imploded, details leaked out. It was going to be open only four hours a day, weekdays only. And would serve — brace yourself — two or three people a day, said Safehouse vice president Ronda Goldfein.

You’ve heard of appointment TV? This is appointment drug abuse. Four hours a day, five days a week to get your clean needles and guidance about shooting up, if you are a newbie. And you must be 18 or older. Oh — no smoking because that is bad for you. But shooting up? No problem!

Let’s  pretend we are Andrew Yang and want to do the math.

Philly had 1,100 drug deaths last year (down slightly from the year before), this shooting gallery was going to be open five days a week, four hours a day, serving three people a day, and it would save up to 76 people a year?

Do you find that believable? 

Some say that saving even one life is worth it.

Let’s take a look at that.

Philadelphia has about 100 vehicular deaths each year — drivers, passengers, pedestrians, bicyclists.

We could cut that number to zero by reducing the speed limit to 5 m.p.h. 

We will not do that. Why?

There are limits to what we will do to save a life.

In the view of opponents to city-endorsed shooting galleries, the cost is too high. It is surrender to the horror of drug addiction.

Enabling drug addiction is immoral, that if we as a society really cared about drug zombies, we would make it harder, not easier, to inject poison into their veins. The “injection site” calms them, it gives the zombies a dangerous feeling of safety in their drug use. 

The Not-Safe operation would offer the zombies access to drug treatment. Social workers do that now when they find them where they are, on the street. Not many take the offer.

Instead of reviving them at a center after they OD and sending them on their way to do it again, arrest them for breaking drug laws and send them to rehab in a prison setting. 

Will it work? Will it take? 

Going cold turkey is very hard, but I would rather fail trying to do the right thing than succeed doing the wrong thing. 

18 thoughts on “Not-Safe drug sites enable zombies”

  1. By normalizing drug abuse the Mayor has decided to indoctrinate otherwise normal young children into the drug culture. When your child meets his first drug dealer and is told that it must be O.K. and safe because the local govt. condones it what chance does he have? If even one child gets caught up in this life because of the Mayor’s selfish wishes to be “Progressive” it’s not worth 500 zombies killing themselves by a choice they made themselves. If any innocent child dies due to this misguided nonsense the blood will be squarely on the Mayor’s hands.

  2. Stu – a very in depth, well thought out article. You really donned the Captain Obvious cape in full regalia on this topic. I can’t think of thing to add.

  3. I went cold turkey smoking in ’77. Never a craving, never looked back. I was lucky!!
    My comments, last blog, I suppose were what I have criticized others of , misplaced compassion, something liberals are always guilty of. You’ve set me straight, Stu.
    Great piece!

  4. Stu: There you go again…using irrefutable logic to destroy a dumb idea. Brilliant piece.

  5. The sheer ignorance from an intelligent, educated person like yourself is astounding, regarding this, obvious click bait worthy comment in particular.
    …“In other words, do you open cocktail lounges to alcoholics who want to quit? How about tobacco safe houses for people who want to quit smoking?”

    You don’t die from taking a drink or lighting up a cigarette, however, you can die instantly from shooting up a bad batch of dope.

    For the record, I did not agree with that site being located at Broad and McKean. However, I was an advocate for an alternate, less instructive site, like East Oregon ave, across from UPS or Delaware ave, where there are no businesses or day cares or schooos.

    The feds have cut all funding for research on why this epidemic has skyrocketed. The idea of it works as it, allowed an addict to use, safely, under supervision, s they don’t die, alone, under the stigma of shame, but also be encouraged to get help via on site counseling. The facility would also have helped navigate the endless red tape an addict would typically encounter trying to get well on their own.

    Safe sites are no more. Now what? Addicts are still using, now…. with no help or access to help. Just a bureaucracy that removes an addict from an iiegsl drug, only to hook them on an equally addictive, but “legal” drug, methadone.

    My best friend OD’d, He tried over and over to get clean, but, it’s a never ending hamster wheel of agencies and departments trying to keep addicts addicted to “their” drug instead. There’s no money in a cure.
    I wish my friend could have had access to a faculty as this. He may have gotten lucky and accepted the help he so desperately tried to get while he was still alive.

  6. Excellent column!
    Drugs are not dangerous because they are illegal; they are illegal because they are dangerous. The Center on Addiction ardently opposes making drugs more accessible and “safe”.

    Good job, as always pallie.
    If this subject wasn’t so serious, I’ld p–s myself laughing.
    First; The shooting gallery at the old *St Agnes* site would save +/- 76 people, with 780 feasting on the drugs. Am I to assume that they would close the doors when they reached 3 druggies ? Yea, right.
    Mark; Sorry to say, NOT ! Alcohol tends to kill slowly. As it eats away at your liver, you ruin your life and that of any loved ones that care about you. Of course, you could get behind the wheel and kill yourself and anyone else who gets in your way. Just like all addicts, the pain is far reaching. Same as with cigarettes. Can you measure the cost of a pack of smokes, when adding the damage that’s being done to yourself and the ever present loved ones?
    Since President Trump has been in office, the Feds have spent close to 13 BILLION on the drug war.
    Last but not lease; “Not in my back yard”. Put it along the river. Put it at the S/W Sewage Treatment Plant. At least there, you can discard the waste.
    We all know-possibly first hand- people that have died from addiction. They either shot up one too many times, committed suicide or found a way to end the pain. When I moved back into my old neighborhood, I found a lot of crime. Most, if not all, was drug related. People-young and old- would make enough money to buy their next fix. Why did they do this to themselves. Because, by themselves, they didn’t see a way out of the sewer of life. They “escaped”for a short time when they were high.
    This brings us back full circle. Stu and I and a few of you, know that you have to play hard ball with ALL addicts. Lock them up if they wont clean up. They need full time babysitters to keep them on the straight and narrow.
    By the way. Marijuana in all forms is ILLEGAL in the United States.
    St Agnes Hospital was a well know Burn Center. Ironically, we go from saving lives to killing them.

  8. Agree with most of what you wrote about the utility (or futility, really)of a place that would be located far from the epicenter and open M-F for 4 hours in the middle of the day…and totally understandable why no one wants it in their neighborhood (myself included) however, calling people zombies?? That’s just highly insensitive and unnecessary to making your point. Those “zombies” are somebody’s spouse, child, friend, etc..,, I pray for you that your life is never touched by addiction.

    1. Karen,
      Did you read my reply above ? Those low life drug addicts lived in what us old people would call a “neighborhood”. Those zombies are 3rd & 4th generation from that street. Should we sugar coat everything and be politically correct ? Those so called “neighbors”, looking for a fix, would steal the copper from your house while you were away on vacation. An elderly woman died at home. These so called “neighbors” broke into her house – while she lay dead in her bed. They cleaned her out of everything of value. Last item to go, the copper pipes.
      Karen, pray that America comes to her senses.

    2. Sorry, Karen, I call an ace an ace. They are slaves to their addiction and have no free will.
      Criminals also have families, but they are still criminals.

  9. Awesome column. And dead on. As a recovering addict. Shot dope for 18 years. Blessed to be clean for the last 21 years, safe injection sites are a total waste of time and resources. When using, I injected asap. Are they selling drugs at these sites? No. Sorry, but no addict is going to travel (while holding onto their dope) just to shoot up at these sites. The Jones is just too strong

Comments are closed.