SOS programs offer addicts a safer way to engage in use.
One of the biggest problems that is facing our nation is opioid addiction. Since these drugs started being prescribed in large amounts during the 1990s, addiction, overdosing, deaths, and turning to cheaper street drugs when prescriptions run out has grown. It’s become an epidemic. There have been a lot of different methods that have been instituted to combat the growing opioid problem in Canada and the United States, as well as in other countries around the world. In Canada, one such solution that lawmakers have turned to is safer opioid supply (SOS) programs. These give addicts a safe place to engage in their addiction rather than doing so on the streets. It is remarkably similar to the clean needle sites which aim to give intravenous drug users access to clean needles to avoid the risk of disease and the spread of HIV.
The goal of SOS programs is to lower the risk of accidental overdose, as well as limit the potential for addicts taking street drugs to ingest a dangerous and often lethal concoction unknowingly. Critics have claimed that these sites will lead to even more addiction and enable those who already are deep in the throes. Many families are not happy with sites that have cropped up in their neighborhoods, contending that it draws in the homeless and more addiction.
London, Ontario’s safe opioid supply program proves that the critics of these programs could not be more wrong. Thanks to the London site alone, hospital admissions have gone down drastically. Among those in the program, there have been no opioid deaths.
Addicts who go into these programs are still continuing their addiction, but they are doing it in a safe place surrounded by doctors. If they were to face some medical issues from their addiction, they would have the benefit of being in a controlled environment with ready medical attention. Should an overdose occur on the streets, their chances of surviving are very slim. The streets are extremely dangerous and not equipped for such a situation.
Telling people to say no to drugs, jailing them, forcing them into rehab, or putting them in hospital is simply not always going to work. When someone is in the throes of an opioid addiction (or any substance for that matter), it’s exceedingly difficult to just simply stop. If they are physically addicted and can’t afford to fulfill this need with prescription medications, they often turn to dangerous street drugs.
The increase in opioid addiction and overdoses isn’t going away anytime soon. During the first year of COVID, in fact, the number of addicts increased dramatically. Having such programs accessible to the public can help opioid users by offering a safe place surrounded by medical professionals who only have their best interest at heart.
There is a stigma towards these types of programs much like the stigma surrounding clean needle sites. Most of this is based on a lack of understanding and fear. By talking to the public and explaining what these programs do, this can help eliminate the negative wrap these sites have gotten.