In Philadelphia, city officials want to help you shoot heroin but make your soda more expensive.
Not only does that sound backward, it is backward. Yet the Kenney administration will tell you its backward reasoning is all for your own good. After all, the government knows what’s best for us.
They have studies from Toronto indicating that safe injection sites— which are, in my opinion, legalized drug houses with medical supervision—can stop people from overdosing on heroin and similar drugs. They have other studies from Toronto that say soda is the nectar of the devil, and that drinking your favorite cola is more likely to cause diabetes than consuming other sugary snacks.
But in case you haven’t noticed, Philadelphia is not Toronto. For one thing, Toronto has free health care, so there are opportunities for drug treatment in Toronto that simply aren’t available in Philadelphia or anywhere else in America. And if your Dr Pepper habit puts you in a sugar coma while you’re living in Toronto, you can get free treatment for that, too.
The real difference between Philadelphia and Toronto, however, is that Toronto does not suffer from the same kind of hard-core violence that we see in Philadelphia. In Toronto last year, there were 96 homicides. That’s in a city with nearly 2.8 million people. In Philadelphia, where there were more than 300 homicides last year — many of them drug-related — such a low homicide number would be cause for celebration. But in Toronto, 96 was cause for alarm, because it was the most homicides that city had experienced in 27 years.
Remember that next time someone tells you crime decreases in places where safe injection sites exist.
Perhaps that’s what’s most troubling to me about Philadelphia city officials giving their blessing to a safe injection site. What do we do with the drug dealers who will battle it out in the streets of Kensington for access to a steady stream of heroin addicts? What will we do with the mothers who abandon their children in order to keep using drugs in such facilities? What will we do with the drug abusers who will rob and steal in order to get the drugs they will bring to Safe Injection Sites? What will we tell the store owners and residents who live in such communities?
Drug addiction does not happen in a vacuum. It affects everything and everyone around the substance abuser. The addicted can’t adhere to a normal schedule because their addiction inhibits their ability to think clearly. They can’t handle responsibility because they can’t be trusted to make rational decisions. They can’t work because the addiction becomes their job.
That’s why grandmothers become caretakers for children. It’s why spouses become prisoners of their loved one. It’s why families and communities fall apart.
This is particularly painful to watch with those who are addicted to heroin and other opioids. The drug systematically breaks down the white matter in the brain. That impacts decision-making and behavior. It reconfigures the neurotransmitters in the brain, rewiring it to make the brain crave the pleasure derived from the drug. It breaks down the user’s brain until it exhibits symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s disease.
In essence, every time someone uses heroin or similar drugs, they are harming themselves by systematically destroying their brain. There is no safe way to inject such a drug, yet the Kenney administration would have us believe that we would be helping people by assisting them in their drug use.
I don’t think so. The best way to keep people from overdosing is to help them stop using. That means focusing on treatment. After all, no one has ever overdosed while not using drugs.
But instead of trying harder to get people to stop using heroin, the Kenney administration is trying to get people to drink far less soda. Or so they say.
In reality, the tax on soda and other sweetened drinks is about raising money to pay for Kenney’s Pre-K program — a worthy cause that currently helps 2,500 children. It will also pay for the Rebuild Project, which will refurbish parks and recreation centers while pumping hundreds of millions into the coffers of the building trades unions that supported Kenney in his run for mayor.
Unfortunately, poor blacks and Latinos are the people drink more soda than anyone, according to studies. Therefore, poor blacks and Latinos are the ones who will foot the majority of the bill.
In a city where policy seems backward, I guess that’s how things go. So go on and shoot heroin, but don’t drink soda. After all, the government knows best.