I finally came across something besides the plethora of used syringes! So what was it?
Laying discarded on the grass in front of several local business is a Glass Vial!
So how is this related to drugs? Glass Vials are commonly used to store drugs such as Oil, powdered drugs such as Cocaine, as well as Meth. Upon closer inspection of this particular Vial, it appeared to have a dark coloured residue and smell consistent with that of Oil. It also had a small amount of black soot on the outside of the Vial, similar to what would result from the application of a lighter or other flame source.
What random drug and/or drug supplies did I stumble upon today while out and about?
One of the many improperly discarded syringes recently revealed under the melting snow!
Take a close look. It is frighteningly easy to miss!
Any discarded or improperly disposed needle is a problem. The fact that this particular one is uncapped is an even bigger one. The chances of an accidental prick are greater, as it could be picked up to be disposed by someone who is unaware of how to safely do so, or stepped on by unsuspecting pedestrians, children or animals.
Ohhh the sights and sounds of spring. I missed you ever so dearly. The days get longer, the sun shines, the birds start chirping feverishly at daybreak, and the mounds of snow that have accumulated over the long, dark winter months begins to slowly melt away. As the white transforms into patches of green, the discarded mess of winter is left to reveal its dirty self. Around my area, it tends to be mostly random garbage, along with piles upon piles of endless dog shit. I mean the stuff is literally everywhere. You can barely take 5 steps without encountering a new mound of months old dog shit. Fecal matter aside, there's something else that's been showing up underneath the melting snow with an increasingly alarming frequency. The discarded remnants of the supplies from IV drug use.
If you don't know what you're looking for, you might never notice that some of the seemingly innocent pieces of garbage showing up beneath the melting snow are tied to the dark world of addiction and IV drug use. Not many people would recognize the tiny plastic single-use sterile water vials, plastic pieces off disposable cookers, or the packaging they come in after they've spent the winter season buried underneath feet of snow. But these past couple of years it has been more than just obscure remnants scattered here and there around town. Even those completely unfamiliar with drug use can clearly identify a single-use needle discarded in the snow bank, and that has become an all too common sight here.
Frighteningly, this problem is all over the city. It's not something confined to known drug areas as you might suspect - it is absolutely everywhere. As the weather warms, discarded needles, cookers, tourniquets, water vials and the like are being revealed in all corners of the city. Aside from the obvious eyesore, this can be a very dangerous situation, and one that I'm willing to bet is not unique to my hometown. While the general consensus is that accidental needle stick injuries pose a relatively low risk of infection, the risk is there nonetheless. I'm sure you've all come across a story in the media at some point or another about the nightmare situation of a young child coming across or being poked by, an uncapped dirty needle found discarded while the child was out playing.
This makes the increasing incidence of improperly disposed sharps a very real issue facing many communities as the incidence of IV drug use continues to increase in popularity. Ten years ago, at least in my area, needle use was relatively uncommon and stigmatized. Fast forward to today however, and it's made its way much further into the mainstream, gaining popularity at an alarming rate. Once relegated to a small group of hard users, needle use has become a much more openly accepted route of administration for a number of different illicit drugs, and the problem of improperly disposed sharps is increasing along side it.
It is certainly not an easy problem to fix, but the answer lies in the important initiative of Harm Reduction. Harm Reduction is a set of principles, policies and initiatives designed to reduce and curb the often harmful effects and consequences associated with drug use and sex work. Common initiatives often consist of needles exchanges, free communicable diseases testing, and access to health and drug treatment services. Needle Exchange Centres provide free clean single-use syringes, along side needle disposal containers or sharps bins to be used by the addict. Once the bin is full, it can then be returned to the needle exchange upon the next visit for proper disposal of bio hazardous materials. Some exchanges will even offer to deliver and pickup sharps containers from users to help ensure proper disposal. Of course this also requires cooperation from the addict, which some exchanges try to ensure by requiring the return of any sharps taken from the exchange. Although this is not an overly common practice, as it can in some cases discourage addicts to return for more safe and clean supplies if they are unable to return the previously used ones. Others have recently suggested offering money in exchange for return & safe disposal of used sharps, similar to what The Beer Store does when it offers 10¢ for each can/bottle upon its return to the store. In my opinion, I believe that method would be highly successful, but does have the possibility of being abused.
No one wants to live in a community scattered full of dirty needles and used discarded drug supplies, not even addicts. Trust me. Implementing harm reduction policies and increasing awareness is the best way to combat this growing issue facing many cities. While community initiatives and clean ups are great ways to help create a safer space, in order to get at the heart of the issue, we need to increase awareness, implement harm reduction programs and stop stigmatizing the problems associated addiction. That way when the snow melts next spring, we can all join forces and focus on the dog shit.
This week, as the annexation of Crimea began, questions were raised about the future treatment of the more than 800 Methadone patients who receive treatment in the city. Sadly, today the Federal Drug Control Service Chief has confirmed that the practice of prescribing Opiate Substitution Therapy (OST) as a treatment for those struggling with heroin or other opiate addictions will cease.
This news is an absolutely devastating blow to the many addicts who have been able to kick their habit with the assistance of OST. Not only is it an effective treatment for opiate dependence, it can have a huge impact on the rates of HIV and other diseases associated with IV drug use and abuse. In a statement made Wednesday, Federal Drug Control Service Chief Viktor Ivanov pushed idea that Methadone is more of a problem than a solution, having become a criminal business.
"Methadone is not a cure. Practically all methadone supplies in Ukraine were circulating on the secondary market and distributed as a narcotic drug in the absence of proper control. As a result, it spread to the shadow markers and traded there at much higher prices. It became a source of criminal incomes," Ivanov said.
How much of a Methadone supply is remaining in Crimea? Frighteningly, not much.
The current stocks of Methadone and Buprenorphie in Crimean clinics "are only expected to last a matter of weeks". Other areas are already starting to feel the strain of lack of supplies, such is the case in the city of Sevastopol, where OST Clinics have "already been compelled to start decreasing patients dosage". The sudden cessation or rapid reduction in OST will lead to patients going into withdrawals, which will unfortunately lead many of these patients right back to the addictive behaviours they originally sought treatment for in an attempt to ease the physical and mental pains of opiate detox.
Not only is OST illegal, so are the needle exchange services that are imperative in reducing the spread of the disease. Of course, suddenly having a influx in the number of addicts returning to IV drug use, and no legal means of obtaining clean syringes and other harm reduction supplies will most likely have a large impact on the rates of HIV infection and other diseases such as Hepatitis C. "Ukraine has been a regional leader in the provision of needle exchange and substitution therapy programs which prevent HIV among people who use drugs", but such a sudden and drastic change to these services "is likely to prove a disaster for health human rights and the HIV epidemic in Crimea and the region more generally".
In order to help ensure these live saving services are not effectively banned in Crimea, the International Network of People Who Use Drugs has begun advocating on behalf of the patients. The group has called on UN Organizations to "support the continuation of existing harm reduction interventions in Crimea and asked the government of the Russian Federation to cease attempts to close down these lifesaving programs". It looks as though OST patients in Crimea have a very tough road ahead.
By K. Lanktree
- Freelance Writer -
- Blog Mistress -
- Former IV Drug User -
- Methadone Patient -
- Lover of all things Harm Reduction -
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