Safe injection sites are needed now

Among the side-effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has been the increase in drug-overdose deaths in this country.

The death rate from opioids finally had begun to decline in 2019, but then came COVID-19 and the number of deaths from drug overdoses began to skyrocket once again.

The nation was reporting fewer than 50,000 fatal overdoses as recently as 2014, but in 2020, drug overdose deaths breached the 100,000 mark.

The chief cause of the surge in deaths is the increase in availability of the synthetic opioid fentanyl, which is being laced into all sorts of drugs — from marijuana to cocaine to heroin — by the drug cartels. According to some news reports, nearly half of drugs tested by the DEA contain a potentially fatal dose of fentanyl.

Fentanyl is up to 50 times more powerful than heroin, but is far cheaper to manufacture for drug dealers, who use it as a substitute for heroin powder or press it into black-market oxycodone pills. Fentanyl is now also finding its way into cocaine and party drugs like ecstasy and is even sprayed on marijuana. 

It has been reported that fentanyl now has killed far more Americans than all U.S. conflicts since World War II combined. In the past decade, it has claimed more than a half million lives, a toll that is growing daily. 

In view of the combination of the lethality and availability of fentanyl, now more than ever our nation needs to address the tragedy of drug overdose deaths with a realistic solution.

Those who think that we can stop the supply of fentanyl are living in a fantasy-world of the 1970s-era movie The French Connection. Fentanyl is so powerful that just a few automobile trunk-loads are enough to kill every American citizen.

If old-school heroin were to be compared to conventional weaponry, then fentanyl is a nuclear bomb.

The Massachusetts legislature has before it a number of bills that would allow for clean injection sites, similar to what New York City and the nation of Portugal (where drug overdose rates have been a fraction of the rest of the world for 20 years) are doing.

We urge our state legislators to enact this important legislation forthwith. Every day of delay means more lives lost needlessly to the scourge of drugs.

Omicron can lead to long COVID

Public health officials have defined so-called long COVID as the physical, neurological, and cognitive symptoms that can persist indefinitely after infection.

Over the past two years, we’ve all seen the countless news stories about the devastating effects of long COVID upon those who are unfortunate enough to suffer from it. 

Although the Omicron variant is causing less severe disease in those who are fully-vaccinated, the number of those infected who suffer from the loss of taste and smell, physical fatigue, and brain fog still is quite significant.

During this period of a surge in COVID because of Omicron’s high transmissibility, it only makes sense for all of us to continue to take the usual precautions — wearing a protective face mask (such as an N-95), maintaining social distancing, and avoiding large crowds — until the Omicron surge begins to wane.

Sure, we can play Russian roulette with our health. 

But with the number of Omicron cases already declining (though still high) in Massachusetts, we figure that if we’ve made this far through the worst of the pandemic, sticking it out for another two months or so by making careful choices only makes sense.

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