Public Restrooms Have Become Ground Zero in Opioid Epidemic

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The opioid epidemic has impacted countless families, but according to a recent article on NPR.org, people aren’t the only ones affected. Public restrooms have become the newest casualty in the midst of the drug epidemic sweeping across our country.

“I know all the bathrooms that I can and can’t get high in,” said Eddie, 39, a self-proclaimed drug user in the Cambridge, Massachusetts area. And Eddie isn’t alone. More and more IV drug users are taking advantage of this public space to get high.

Business owners are taking note after seeing their restrooms littered with used syringes, drugs, and even dead bodies of the people who overdosed.

How Do Business Owners Take Back Public Restrooms

Using public restrooms to do drugs has put business owners in a quandary: Do they restrict access or do they continue keeping facilities open to the public?

It seems like there’s no right answer. While some establishments have resorted to closing their public restrooms in recent months, others have chosen to take a different route.

One business quoted in the NPR article installed a blue light to make it difficult for people who shoot up to find a vein. Another removed the drop ceiling in his bathrooms after noticing drug paraphernalia tucked above the tiles. One even trained his baristas to use naloxone, the drug that reverses an opioid overdoses.

Still, there’s very little guidance on this issue. And with it being against the law to knowingly provide a space where people can use drugs, it has become a problem no one wants to talk about, said Dr. Alex Walley, director of the Addiction Medicine Fellowship Program at Boston Medical Center.

Should We Make Restrooms Safer for Everyone?

Yet, in the meantime, Walley says there are ways to make bathrooms safer for everyone without having to completely shut off these spaces from the public. A model restroom, according to him, would be well-lit with stainless-steel surfaces and be stocked with naloxone in case of an overdose occurrence. It would have a biohazard box for needles and bloodied swabs. It would also be monitored – preferably by a nurse or EMT – and would be easy to unlock from the outside.

Very few bathrooms currently fit this model in the United States, but hopefully, as time goes on, more and more people will want to come together and start solving this problem, instead of just simply moving it outside their places of business.




Image Source: iStock

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