tv Ali Velshi on Target Al Jazeera February 22, 2016 6:30am-7:01am EST
more news and dancing on al jazeera.com website including latest from uganda. - addicted in america. how a safe place to shoot up can help people connected on heroin america's heroin epidemic is taking a huge toll in human life in communities across the nation. heroin and pain medication like oxycontin caused 60% of the record 47,000 deaths from drug overdoses in 2014.
here in new york city, long in the epicentre of drug use. heroin overdoses increased for four years. deaths outnumber homicide. tonight i'll tell you about a radical solution to addressing the prop that's proven effective in other countries, but is highly controversial. before i get to that i want you to hear some of what donald trump said about america's heroin epidemic after he won the primary. he begins by saying what he state. >> mr trump. please do something. the drugs, the heroin is pouring in. it's so cheap. there's so much of it. the kids are getting stuck and other people are getting stuck. we are going to end it. we are going to end it at the southern border. it's going to be over. >> it's nice to thing that building a wall at the mexican boarder as trump proposes would stop the flow of heroin to the
united states, but the failure of the war on drugs convinced many people that law enforcement is not the answer to addressing america's drug problem. officials have turned to the softer side of battling drugs. it's an approach called harm reduction. a shift in approach from law enforcement to public health. illegal drug use is part of our world. we need to minimise its affects rather than ignore or condemn them. as i told you, needle exchange programs are growing, and are gaining bipartisan support. using needle exchange programs to address addiction in america is nothing compared to what some harm reduction advocates are proposing here in new york. they want to give addicts a safe place to use drugs. i went to see for myself whether this could be an important tool in fighting the heroin epidemic,
or if it's a well-meaning idea that goes too far. [ ♪ ] where are you taking me to? >> we are going over here quick, this then to the bottom. >> walk a little with 52-year-old michael bailey, known as highway mike, and he can show you a mork that most do not see. >> these are normal spots what we come to. what we'll come to we'll use. >> is it a hard city to find places to use. >> not really. >> you know what, a lot of times we want to sebbing lewd -- sebbing lewd, we don't want to be in society all around the city in underpasses and abandoned buildings people are oding. what are the dangers. >> definitely oding.
>> that's where you live? >> yes. >> wow. that danger led droves of drug users to search for a safer place to inject. it's an unspoken secret that they have taken over the bathrooms of community brooklyn. >> i'll show you our bathroom. >> evelyn is a director of program services at vocal new york. it's a grassroots group that populations. >> we have a sharps container, for disposal after they use. they have their drugs. we don't condone use, people will use. we want them to be safe and healthy. our job is to keep them alive. >> the bathrooms are so popular with users that milan set up rules. there's a sign up sheet. each person gets 10 minutes, and a 2-way intercom let's milan check in periodically.
>> eddy is a member who publicly injected heroin for most of his adult life. >> we used to go on to shooting galleries to stay away from the street. we pay $1 for the works, $1 for the place. we shoot up. throw the needle in the can and walk out. c. by the grace of god i wasn't infected with hep a. but my brother did public injectors are more likely to reuse needles and spread hep a and c. common. >> we reversed probably over 60 overdoses since we opened. >> taiko frost is executive director of the project.
a nonprofit that runs a syringe exchange programme. >> we know that individuals in new york do not have a stable sterile space to inject drugs. we have lost so many people to overdose. so many people, young people, wonderful people, artists, creatives, smart, wonderful people that didn't need to die. [ siren ] when those addicts od staff members are trained to give narcan. it's a life-saving drug reversing the worst effects of heroin. but frost says it's a band aid. >> it is not a solution to what is going on in 2014 new york saw more deaths from heroin overdose than from homicide.
and among drug users, those that inject in public places are twice as likely to od. driven by a fear of arrest or being discovered. they rush their injections and increase odds for an overdose. that is why frost is leading a coalition of advocacy groups, lobbying city officials to allow a radical idea, a place where addicts can inject areas. >> this is the kind of thing a safe injection facility is meant to address. you can find these in hundreds of places around manhattan. i'm in the middle of a traffic area. but it's little secluded spots where people use their drugs with an injection facility. they have somewhere to go that is safe. >> users would be provided clean needles and sterile cubicles for injecting. on site staff would help with
everything, finding a vein, to managing overdoses to helping an addict about accessing treatment. the lone north american location called insight operates out of vancouver. since it's opening, 2 million injections are taking place. out of the city, out of railways, out of bathrooms. and no one aside. those 2 million injections have taken stuff off the street and have given people a clans to live for another day. >> mark fought a battle to open insight in 2003. over a decade of undeniable opinion. >> the injection site is something 78% of people support. studies showed what increased overdose rates, lowers the transition of h.i.v. and hepatitis c and saves money in
the long run. >> for every dollar, you save $4. all the stuff that goes along with the public use of drugs. despite the evidence, an injection facility in new york is anything but an easy cell. >> it's not helping anyone benefit themselves in a way of getting clean and starting a new life. some charged the facility would enable drug users. this is a recovering heroin addict in staten island at a sickness center. >> to me, i don't see how it's benefit of course, they are not helping themselves, they are killing themselves and others like logan lewis say it fails to get to the root of drug abuse. it's taking a person with a fever of 104 and sticking them in a bath tub full of ice. will it get rid of the symptom.
will it cure the problem, of course not. >> you can stick them in ice before they die. you haven't gone to really address the underlying issue. >> lewis, a former addict themselves questioned whether users would seek out a facility. >> when you start to go through withdrawal because you want to get a drug that you need, you want to get it into your system. you don't have time to look for a site. townsend says research shows supervised injection facilities can, in fact, help drug abuse. >> declamerizes drug use. also, they discovered that people are more likely, 30% more likely than someone on the street to attend detox or treatment one city down member came out in support, but the department of health declined to say if it
would consider the idea. still, highway mike says the day drug users have a safe place to inject can't come soon enough? >> we are in high bridge park, off of 177 street. and as a user, we'll go down here and have all our equipment and what we have to use. if we are by ourselves and something happened, that person wouldn't be found until the next person that happened to use was going that way, or the smell of the stench. >> we are losing people behind the disease of addiction. >> well, it seems counterintuitive. fighting drug addiction giving addicts a place to do drugs. >> coming up, some say it's a bold plan that may hurt more >> the only live national news show at 11:00 eastern. >> we start with breaking news. >> let's take a closer look.
new york city. it rivals the bronx for the highest rate of heroin overdose deaths. it's part of a face of addiction. young, white, suburban, and it doesn't mean people that work in drug addicts support places where heroin users can inject safely. earlier we met a person from the rehabilitation alcohol and drug treatment in stat yin island. logan joins me now to say why he's opposed to the idea of supervised injection facilities. >> i look at the situation, i know the hard work you do, and we are on the same side of this. you have deaths, like they do in the bronx, in harlem. if a facility were, as we saw, to possibly prevent some of
those deaths, is it not worth talking about. it really. when you fail to solve a problem that's solvable. and you - when you talk about people dying, no one was people to sigh: the drug and addiction problem has not been adequately addressed. so that you'll stop people dying. will you stop the people who are twoing out and buying heroin from committing crimes to do it. will going to a supervised site prevent people who can't get to the site from using heroin and overdosing. it's a band aid on the cut of an article. but, it doesn't go about solving the problem of addiction. it doesn't go about solving the underlying closers.
>> on a basic level. the bathrooms where we described the stuff is happening, or the ability for somebody at one of these hamp -- harm reduction centers to administer narcan. regardless of whether you agree with the bath tub analogy, that you are just taking the fever away, the harm reduction facility says it invites people into the conversation and could lead to them seeking assistance. >> that is not true. >> when you think about addiction. a major symptom is denial. if you alloy heroin -- allow heroin addicts to keep shooting, what is the ipp sentive. when heroin addicts can't get
drugs, then they go to detox. they don't go to detox and heroin addicts to treatment because they have an ennive somy, so a -- epithany. allowing for before doesn't solve the problem. it prevents people buying. you can't argue that point. it doesn't solve the problem to keep them from the before that will kill them. >> how do we address the popularity of the safe injection sites in canada and overseas. we don't have numbers on whether more are shooting up. but we know there has been 2 million injections in vancouver's site. 2 million safer injections than the guy in harlem in the woods. >> that's true.
you can't deny that. how many went there for injections, how many times a day. you can't tell that. how about the people out there, who have an addiction problem, and need help. public addiction is a public health crisis. there's no other where? order to solve the crisis you encourage the people to continue the behaviour that affects their health and well being. these places that allow are don't guarantee everyone ... you remember a day in new york when they decided distributing condoms, harm reduction. those that weren't using condoms to prevent the spread of h.i.v. aids. it's harm reduction. safely. >> sexual activity is not a public health crisis, providing
condoms to people having sex, which is natural, keeps them from contracting this disease. heroin addiction, and drug addiction can be termed as a commune cab ail disease, people -- communicable disease. people get it from hanging out with others that have it. condom use reduced the transition mission of aids to people -- transition of aids to people doing something that is natural. you have hundreds and wives contracting it for his bands and wives that have it hun knowingly, that's sport. drug use is bad, right. >> what is the answer? drugs. >> true. >> it's against the law to be in possession, but it's not against the law to use drugs. people with an addiction needs to be mandated into treatment. >> what does that mean.
>> they have to go some place to be treated for the problem. treatment. >> as you know, addicts may not go in because someone says they have to. >> they always go in because someone says they have to. more go in because someone says they have to than a light bulk going off. >> people that are mandated go into treatment and do better than those that go no voluntarily. people are in denial. they don't want to stop. >> what if you are not those things, you are not a criminal. you didn't go through court, and you are a drug user. stop. >> why do people use drugs. >> they are getting away from something. people do it because it makes them feel good. human being replicate behaviours that make them feel good. that's why people use drugs. when it gets to a point where
you can't feel good unless you use drugs, you are addicted. there's no incentive to stop. when you don't have it, you end up especially with heroin, you end up going through physical withdrawal. what is the incentive to stop. someone has to get them into an environment that will help them change the way they think, the way they feel and behaviour. and if they don't get that, they until. >> logan, it's a good conversation. we'll have to pick it up again and talk about it. you know a great deal about it. logan is a clin igal -- clinical director. coming up. a drug that could help save
i'm talking about how to tackle the new heroin epidemic that is killing tens of thousands of americans. earlier in the story about creating safer places for addicts to use heroin, i mentioned a drug known by the name narcan. it's used to reverse overdoses and save lives. but it doesn't come without controversy. jacob ward reports from san francisco. >> reporter: who is this? >> that is my frequent arielle. she was my friend and we worked together. she died in 2005, and - yes,
that's her. >> eliza runs the drug overdose prevention and education programme in oakland california. the work is hard and personal. >> we sat outside for a long time. she said "i don't know what i'm doing, i'll get my shit together. it's a blip." she did. >> reporter: wheeler may not get users into treatment. but she can make sure she has access to a narcan. >> an overdose causes the body to forget to breathe. narcan literally knocks narcan off the brain, sobering the user up. heroin and opiate abuse rose every year since 2007. during 2013. about 16,000 people died of an overdose, like oxicodon or hired
codon, and 8,000 died of heroin. in that one year, according to a serva that wheeler conducted, he reversed 8,000 times, meek that in theory, the 8,000 people would be dead as well. anecdotal evidence, talking about receiving narcan can treatment. >> in clinics where narloxon is predescribed, we see dramatic reductions in death, and reductions in overdose events. so maybe it's acting as a behaviour change. >> narcan is arguably the safest drug in the world. if a paramedic comes upon someone that is unconks, in the wrong alcohol stupor, that would kill them. narcan is safe to administration to anyone in any condition. that is why this stuff is available.
not just for the emergency personnel, but to people like you and me. it was really heavy. okay. this is bad. he had narcan, and i gave him the narcan and seemed like it wasn't working, i gave him two doses. it was terrifying. he lived. >> paramedics administered narcan. police carried it as well. according to the study drug users saved each other 80% of the time. that's why wheeler says they must have narcan too. >> for me the priority is to get it into the hands of people that use
the the most. we equip people out there with life-saving drugs. to save themselves, to save each other. it's hard for mainstream america to wrap their minds around. >> patrick would be dead if he emt. >> what happened is that while he was in minneapolis, i acquired heroin. when i used it i oded, when i oded i was out. i didn't have time to prepare for it or save myself or do anything. my girlfriend had the training in how to use narcan. saw i was unconscious, not breathing, came over, inserted the narcan, do it through the nose, and revived me within 5-10 minutes. narcan doesn't necessarily mean that a drug user will act for responsibly.
for an addict, the use of narcan could be a horrible experience. it's instantaneous withdrawal. with the terrible symptoms, it's not a cushy backdrop. just as ugly is that it isn't about treating addiction, but it can help addicts from dying. all it does is help people and save people's lives, it can't hurt anyone. i don't see a reason why it should not be available to everyone that is our show for today. i'm ali velshi, thank you for joining us, the news continues >> we're here to fully get into the nuances of everything that's going on, not just in this country, but around the world. getting the news from the people who are affected. >> people need to demand reform... >> ali velshi on target.
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