“I remember saying … I feel so sick I need to go home.”

This is how a young woman, identified only as Adele, began describing the time she overdosed after injecting heroin many years ago. She went on, saying that as she rested on her ex-partner’s bed “suddenly, I’ve gone into this overdose.” She was unresponsive and had to be told after she was resuscitated that she “went blue within seconds.” After the incident, Adele said “I was shaking all over, in shock, and disoriented for the rest of the night. I was scared to go to sleep.” Even with the overwhelming terror of this event, it would not be her last overdose. Adele would go on to have five overdoses in total and be witness to many more, telling an interviewer that when someone has overdosed “basically they’ve died.

Unfortunately, overdoses like this are becoming more common with the influx of Fentanyl flowing through the porous southern border and into the black market. Instead of placing an emphasis on drug treatment and use prevention, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), operating under the federal policy of “harm reduction,” are attempting to open locations where addicts can consume harmful substances to the point of overdose. Without explicit state bans, the horrors people experience during an overdose will not cease but only change location.

Harm Reduction policies are based on the theory that no matter what, people are going to consume drugs, so it is the responsibility of society to provide a place for addicts to consume those illicit substances safely. These places are often referred to as overdose prevention sites, supervised drug consumption (SDC) sites, or safe injection sites. The problem with all of this, of course, is that there is no safe way for addicts to consume drugs. This much is borne out in the real world.

An SDC site, Safehouse in Philadelphia, has been trying to open since the Covid-19 pandemic first gripped the nation. It sought to alleviate the pressing opioid crisis by providing users with a variety of services, including a controlled space to safely use drugs like fentanyl and heroin. The goal of Safehouse was to prevent overdose deaths in Philadelphia. The evidence Safehouse pointed to is the supposed success of North America’s first drug consumption sites in Vancouver, British Columbia in preventing overdose deaths.

However, that success was just the opposite: drug toxicity deaths rose 765% in the Vancouver area through the decade. In 2023, the same Vancouver sited reported only 6,000 overdose reversals without death since 2003, and a meager 1.35% of users entered the complementary drug treatment facility. In 2023 alone, illicit drug toxicity was the leading cause of death in British Columbia, accounting for at least 2,511 deaths. Not only do SDC sites malfunction, but they also fall short of their own harm reduction principles. In failing to rehabilitate career users, the effects of prolonged substance abuse take full form. Non-fatal, opioid-involved overdoses can lead to “permanent damage, slower reaction time, impaired memory, reduced motor skills, and diminished physical functioning.”

Additionally, sustained use of illicit substances destabilizes the prefrontal cortex, making sobriety much harder to pursue. The goal of “harm reduction” is a misnomer and is unachievable through these methods. The programs failed in Canada and Philadelphia. If implemented in Texas, SDC sites will surely yield similar results.

Safehouse was originally was denied their request to open a supervised drug consumption site under the Trump administration citing they would be in violation of federal law. Safehouse sued the Department of Justice under the First Amendment saying that treating addicts was an expression of freedom of religion. The lawsuit was put on hold when Safehouse entered into negotiations with the Biden administration, and, before a decision could be reached, Philadelphia City Council banned the sites in 9 of their 10 districts. In April 2024, district court Judge Gerald A. McHugh ended the five year long legal standoff with Safehouse, but the NGO signaled their efforts weren’t over with a tweet indicating they will appeal the decision.

It’s unclear what the federal judiciary will ultimately decide, but in the meantime, states, like Texas, can pass their own measures to prevent NGOs from exploiting any loopholes or taking advantage of ambiguities in the law. Banning SDC sites through state-level legislation in the next legislative session would improve public safety in tangible ways far more effective than supervised drug consumption sites.

Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) if you are struggling with substance abuse.