The "Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act" will transition Oregon's drug policy from a punitive, criminal approach to a humane and practical approach. "People suffering from the disease that is substance use disorder are more effectively treated with health care services than with criminal punishments.” This is both a significant and radical attempt at harm reduction.
Are we going too far? How can it work?
Canada is experimenting with a program called “Safe Supply.” ”Treatments for opioid use disorder, including methadone and buprenorphine, are potentially lethal and don’t work for everyone. Prescribing a safe supply of regulated opioids, can allow people to know real dosage and pharmaceutical grade quality. This should decrease reliance on deadly street options, and also decrease legal exposure if not procuring street drugs.” 100MillionWays suggests a study arm, maybe replacing one dose of opioids each day with a cannabis-based medicine, and/or IV meloxicam or SC ketamine. These options should be explored in these models. One less opioid dose every day = less deaths.
The Canadian Programs defines safe supply as “providing a legal and regulated supply of drugs otherwise available only in illicit drug markets. This is trying to use an imperfect tool in response to an overwhelming crisis of death. And it Is important to note that implementation of a safe supply program is no easy challenge for multiple, regulatory, legal, and operational reasons – so it’s got to be a realistic approach and prove positive to bring value.
Time will tell regarding safe supply and Measure 110. But components of these programs are derived from published accounts of successes in Portugal. A 2009 Cato Institute study of Portugal’s decriminalization of all drugs in 2001, reported a dramatic reduction of pathologies associated with drug use, such as sexually transmitted diseases and overdose deaths. A 2015 European Drug Report found that Portugal's drug overdose death rate is five times lower than the European Union average.
Availability of deadly street options - According to a recent NPR investigation, it has become apparent that even when the Chinese Government helps to slow the flow of synthetic fentanyl and components, new synthetic, more powerful and deadlier opioid derivatives boldly appear in public markets and through social networking sites. NPR suggested that Alibaba has the most open illicit drug sales, but illicit drug vendors also operate on Facebook, Twitter, Wickr, MeWe, Vimeo AND even LinkedIn. Understandably, it is a challenge to monitor such activity as it is a head-spinning array of chemicals tagged with an obscure international numerical naming systems and dynamic change management. So it’s even harder for America to stop the inflow of illicit synthetic opioids, as some are so new, they are not recognized and are not illegal.
The point is, no matter how hard we try to stop the flow, the flow continues anew.
The scope and collaboration required to implement these programs makes me concerned for the success of the “safe supply” model in America. Oregon has guts. Lots of loose ends. Hopefully, the federal government takes a look because over 80,000 Americans may die from a drug overdose in this pandemic year, street drugs are available everywhere and so much worse than pharmaceutical grade products, and people are in jail-hell for non-violent drug related crimes. Safe supply and 110 deserve a chance.