San Francisco health officials took steps yesterday toward opening the nation’s first legal safe-injection room, where addicts could shoot up heroin, cocaine and other drugs under the supervision of nurses, reports the Associated Press. Hoping to reduce the city’s high rate of fatal drug overdoses, the public health department co-sponsored a symposium on the only such facility in North America, a 4-year-old Vancouver site where about 700 intravenous users daily self-administer narcotics under the supervision of nurses.
Along with legal hurdles at the state and federal level, such an effort would be almost sure to face political opposition. Bertha Madras of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy called San Francisco’s consideration of such a facility “disconcerting” and “poor public policy. The underlying philosophy is, ‘We accept drug addiction, we accept the state of affairs as acceptable,'” she said. “This is a form of giving up.” Sixty-five similar facilities exist in 27 cities in eight countries, but no other U.S. cities have considered creating one, according to the Harm Reduction Coalition, a nonprofit that promotes alternative drug treatment methods.