Increasing Number of Dirty Needles Being Found in Public Parks and Flower Beds
Over the past summer, the Fort Collins newspaper The Coloradoan published an article regarding a substantial increase in the amount of used needles being found in public areas such as parks, natural areas and flower beds in the downtown Fort Collins area. There is a widespread and growing concern about the increase in intravenous (IV) drug use and potential spread of viruses and diseases associated with IV drug use. There is a strong correlation between the increase in discovery of used needles and the opioid/heroin epidemic sweeping across the country. The fact that there are used needles being found in public areas clearly shows how this is a community problem affecting us all and one that can no longer be ignored.
According to The Coloradoan over the past five years the frequency of used needles being found by park cleanup crews in Fort Collins has gone up so significantly that it is now standard practice for park employees to carry sharps containers and puncture proof gloves with them in order to protect themselves from potential infection while safely disposing of the hazardous waste. Used needles placed carelessly in public areas such as children’s parks and public walking paths place both the maintenance employees who pick them up along with infants, children and local citizens at a high exposure risk to blood-borne pathogens such as HIV, Hepatitis C and drug residuals that may be found on these needles
As long as there are people who are struggling with drug addiction, there will be widespread social repercussions that affect entire communities not just the individuals addicted to drugs. Community issues of people being exposed to used needles will continue to get worse and worse until we can curb the ever increasing rates of addiction. Although the immediate solution to this problem is to continue cleaning up our public spaces as quickly and as safely as possible it does not address the underlying problem of the millions of people in this country addicted to opiates and other drugs. The only viable solution to this problem is to make long-term treatment and rehabilitation more attainable to those that desperately need it. Only by addressing the root causes of the addiction can we address the wide-spread social and economic ramifications of drug addiction.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), there were an estimated 22.7 million Americans in need of substance abuse treatment in 2013 but only about 2.5 million people (0.9%) who received treatment. The NIDA also estimates that the "Abuse of tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs is costly to our Nation, exacting more than $700 billion annually in costs related to crime, lost work productivity, and health care.” This is clearly an issue that will not go away on its own and is an issue that affects every single citizen in our country whether directly or indirectly and is one that needs to be addressed by our entire nation as a whole.
National Institute on Drug Abuse: www.drugabuse.gov
The Fort Collins Coloradoan: http://www.coloradoan.com/story/news/2016/05/10/needles-fort-collins-parks-pose-increasing-hazard/83935286/