Prevent Drug Overdoses With Federally Funded Programs

Target: Joseph R. Biden, President of the United States

Goal: Take action to reduce overdose related deaths by providing necessary tools to keep drug users safe.

Walking through the streets of New York or any other major U.S. city, it is clear to see that an epidemic is upon us. It is nearly impossible to walk down more than a block or two without confronting the omnipresent effects of drug use–people shooting up in broad daylight, used needles and broken glass crack pipes scattered about on sidewalks. Thousands of people overdose on these very city streets, alone as bystanders walk right on past them.

Opioid related deaths have been up by about 28.5% since 2020, with an estimated 90,000-100,000 individuals having succumbed to drug-induced overdoses in the year 2021. For the last half century, the U.S. has unsuccessfully attempted to curb the prevalence of drugs through enforcing punitive strategies that criminalize their use. These laws have, in effect, disproportionately put black and brown men in prison, and ultimately failed to reduce the number of overdoses. Our war on drugs has not been fruitful. Addiction goes way beyond any penalty the government might threaten–at its core, addiction is a change in the brain’s very biochemistry, a shift in cognition that completely modifies the way a person feels and acts. Drugs are manufactured to be addictive–they prey on human addictive tendencies, and it is very common for people to get hooked on opioids simply from being prescribed them as painkillers.

While addiction is pervasive and harder to treat without access to affordable rehab facilities and treatment resources, there are many–rather simple–ways that we can be helping prevent fatal overdoses in the wake of this drug epidemic. The provision of unlimited access to naloxone kits, for example, for people who might need them has been proven an effective measure against overdose related deaths. These kits, which contain drugs to reverse opioid overdoses, are credited with saving thousands of lives and once administered, allow time for an ambulance or other services to arrive on scene. Naloxone kits are, however, becoming increasingly expensive and many non-profit organizations are in short supply, which is why the federal government needs to step in.

Contamination of drugs by illicitly manufactured fentanyl is also especially problematic. Drugs laced with fentanyl are killing Americans at an unprecedented rate and fentanyl is one of the leading substances involved in all overdose related deaths. No one is safe—even one time drug users can succumb to this dangerous synthetic opioid. While test strips exist as a cheap, effective way of detecting fentanyl in drugs and preventing fentanyl related deaths, there is much stigma surrounding them. In many states, these test strips are considered drug contraband and it is illegal to even be in possession of one.

These solutions, which are among the most effective and durable, have been severely underfunded and their implementation has been way too limited. Some cities have also played with the idea of providing safe injection sites, though New York City is the only to have actually followed through thus far. Safe injection sites are nonjudgmental, accessible atmospheres where addicts can use drugs safely, with clean needles, health service supervision, and access to Narcan and other life-saving drugs. Already implemented throughout Europe and Canada, these sites have been proven to reduce the number of fatal-overdoses, and studies have shown that drug users who use these safe injection sites are more likely to seek out additional help, such as through addiction treatment. Currently, a bill to legalize safe injection spaces in California awaits the governor’s approval.

We must change our approach if we want a fighting chance at ending this epidemic. Instead of criminalizing those who use drugs, we must provide them with viable tools for safe-drug use. Sign this petition to encourage the Biden Administration take steps, such as those outlined above, to reduce overdose-related deaths in the U.S.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear President Biden,

Opioid-related deaths are at an all-time high in the United States, with no signs of slowing down. It is predicted that the death toll will continue to rise in 2022 beyond that of 2021, where an estimated 90,000-100,000 individuals lost their lives. Government and state authorities have long attempted to confront this epidemic with harsh legal enforcement–penalizing those who use drugs. However, the criminalization of these drugs has been ineffective in reducing overdose deaths, and has also disproportionately affected black and brown men, furthering the racial divide that persists in America today. Addiction is not something that can be threatened away–it is a cognitive rewiring of the human brain, and its effects run much deeper than any law the government can conjure up. If the government wants to do something to stop all of these deaths–which it claims that it does–it must change its approach, as current methods to dealing with overdose-related deaths have proven ineffective and damaging.

There are many simple solutions to help prevent overdoses in the U.S., but which have been severely underfunded, with much too limited an implementation. Unlimited access to naloxone kits, for example, would provide users with a way to reverse the effects of opioid overdoses. These kits have been credited with saving thousands of lives, though they have recently risen in cost and would benefit from the help of federal supply. Fentanyl is one of the leading substances involved in all overdose related deaths and has been killing Americans at an unprecedented rate. Even one time users can succumb to drugs laced in this deadly synthetic opioid. Fentanyl testing strips are an easy way for users to safely test their drugs, however, in many states, it is a felony to even be in possession of these testing strips which are considered as “drug contraband”. We must destigmatize these test strips and, instead, encourage their use.

New York City has also started following in the footsteps of countries like Canada and those throughout Europe in opening the United States’ first ever safe injection site. Safe injection sites are nonjudgmental, accessible spaces where addicts can use drugs safely, with clean needles, health service supervision, and access to Narcan and other life-saving drugs. These sites have proven to significantly reduce the number of overdose deaths in countries where they are implemented, and studies have even shown that people who attend these sites are more likely to find their way to addiction treatment later on. We must legalize these sites throughout the U.S., starting with California where such a bill currently awaits local government’s approval.

We are asking you, President Biden, to please take the necessary steps towards ending this overdose epidemic once and for all.

Sincerely,
[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Elvert Barnes


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  • Gertie Hunt
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