I don't speak language of compassion on injection sites | Christine Flowers

Safe Injection Sites Philadelphia
FILE – In this May 11, 2011, file photo, a man prepares heroin he bought on the street to be injected at the Insite safe injection clinic in Vancouver, British Columbia. As part of Philadelphia's effort to combat skyrocketing opioid overdoses, city officials announced Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018, they want to establish safe havens where people can inject drugs, after members of the city's opioid task force visited Seattle and Vancouver in 2017. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

I speak four languages fluently, and I taught Spanish and French in high school.   I understand the intricacies of language and the frustrations that come from not understanding what someone is trying to express.

That’s how I feel about the arguments people are making in support of safe injection sites.  They say that providing a clean, well-lit space for addicts to shoot up under medical supervision is the best way to stem the opioid crisis.  These people are fluent in the language of “compassion.”

I don’t speak that language, I don’t want to learn it, and I’m not alone.  Recently, when this paper asked for reader reaction to the city’s decision to endorse the proposal, they didn’t print any letters that supported the idea.

That’s not because they deliberately rejected positive feedback.  At the time that edition went to print, they hadn’t received any letters of support for the idea.

Another person who opposes the idea is Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro who said “there’s no safe way to inject yourself with this type of poison.”  He also notes the obvious, that the sites are likely illegal because they violate federal law.

The plan’s supporters don’t seem to care.  To them, the only alternative would be the dark street, the dangerous alleyway or underneath the El.  These native speakers of compassion have no words in their lexicon for “middle ground.”

There’s a lot of daylight between the controversial extremes of letting men and women inject themselves with poison under the caring eyes of medical personnel, and ignoring the plight of the addicted altogether. In an Orwellian play on words, those safe injection sites have been dubbed Comprehensive User Engagement Sites by the city.  That’s interesting language. I wonder if they call cemeteries “Comprehensive User Internment Site.”

That may not sound compassionate.  But where is the compassion from the plan’s supporters for parents who don’t want their children to pass by places where sick people are allowed to feed their disease with a City Hall Seal of Approval? Do they have any concern for the convenience store owners who don’t want heroin users meeting up with their dealers for the next day’s supply on their front steps? Do they care about creating a community of permanent addicts who have no incentive to go into rehab, and the impact that will have on society? Probably not.

The most insidious part about this move for safe injection sites is the push for normalization.   Creating a legal home for illegal acts is a radical idea, and the only way to implement it is by going on the offensive and making the opponents look like heartless nihilists who don’t give a damn about the afflicted.  It’s happened to me every time I’ve tried to engage these supporters on social media, or on my radio show.  Either they refuse to debate me, or they employ the language of ad hominems and non sequiturs, which convinces me that Latin really isn’t a dead language after all.

The opioid crisis is real.  There are many ways to address it, short of letting the addicts feed their disease and thereby create a permanent underclass of users.  One of them is to prosecute the people who made money off of the sale of drugs that, when over-prescribed, created accidental addicts.  That could include civil suits against Big Pharma, as well as criminal charges against doctors who ran those infamous pill mills.   Both are underway.

Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, a drug that is commonly blamed for the crisis has just announced it will stop marketing it to doctors as a pain medication, albeit  amid cries that this comes “20 years too late.”

And there has been increased interest in exploring the use of medical marijuana to substitute for the much more dangerous substances that often lead to heroin addiction.  Ted Flowers of Morriconi Flowers, a law firm that specializes in the field of medical cannabis (and yes, my brother) told me that “A University of Michigan March 2016 study published in the Journal of Pain found that cannabis decreased side effects from other medications; improved quality of life; and reduced use of opioids (on average) by 64%.  The very fact that marijuana use does not result in the brutal physical dependence common with opioid  use makes it clear that cannabis can be extremely useful in helping combat opioid addiction.”

Given Pennsylvania’s recent legalization of medical marijuana and the generous list of treatable conditions provided in the enabling legislation, the impact on heroin addiction should be significant.

But compassionate crusaders don’t want to wait, and have decided  to make it easier for the addict to stay addicted.

That’s something I’ll  never understand, in any language.