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The opioid crisis has hit the United States hard, the ripples being felt from coast to coast. Each day, a little more than 90 American overdoses on opioids. Usually starting with common prescription pain relievers, users usually move onto, heroin and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. The epidemic seems to be getting worse, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the total economic burden is well over $75 billion. With no sign of slowing down, agencies and organizations are looking for creative solutions to tackle the issue.
The Blue Light Solution
A New Kensington, Pennsylvania store is currently using blue lighting in their bathrooms to discourage heroin users from shooting up. This pilot test hopes to make it more difficult for users to use drugs in the bathroom. A rep from the store stated, “The blue light system makes it so that somebody who is looking to inject heroin or an opioid can't find their veins." This isn't the first place to try this strategy for tackling drug users. The blue light system has been tried in bathrooms around the world. On paper, this seems like a great, cost-effective strategy. But, there is an issue. It does not seem to work.
The blue lights might do more harm than good. Some argue that blue lights do not discourage people from using drugs in bathrooms and could increase the amount of injury related to injecting, including skin and soft tissue infections.
In a survey, by the U.S National Library of Medince, they tested the effectiveness of the blue lights to discourage injection drug use. After interviewing 18 people in two Canadians cities "who currently or previously used injection drugs." The study showed that "participants described a preference for private places to use injection drugs but explained that the need for an immediate solution would often override other considerations. While public washrooms were in many cases not preferred, their accessibility and relative privacy appear to make them reasonable compromises in situations involving urgent injecting." In short, the small study concluded that blue lights are unlikely to deter injection drug use.
An Expensive Alternative
The THN or "Take Home Naloxone" program has proven to be a success in British Colombia, Canada. Implemented in 2012, the program gives out Naloxone kits to drug users and people who are likely to respond to, or witness an overdose. The program has saved 11,815 lives. Distributing Naloxone in bathrooms may be more practical than blue lights, but the overdose drug is significantly more expensive than the blue light solution, a single auto-injector, costing $2,000.
Do you think adopting methods like these will make a dent in the opioid epidemic?