Poster in NY Subway Encourages Fentanyl Users to Feel ‘Empowered’
“Don’t be ashamed you are using [fentanyl], be empowered that you are using safely,” reads an ad posted throughout New York City’s transportation system.
The ad comes from the city’s Health Department (DOH), which on its website offers addicts a free tutorial on how best to use one of the most addictive substances in the world.
Fentanyl is a synthesized opioid 50x stronger than heroin and 100x more potent than morphine. In 2020, fentanyl was listed as the leading cause of death among Americans between the ages of 18-45. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were roughly 107,600 drug overdose deaths in the US in 2021 – a 15% increase from the year previous. Of those deaths, roughly 66% involved fentanyl.
As noted in NYC’s controversial ad campaign, there is an overdose death in New York roughly once every four hours. In many cases, overdose occurs when someone unwittingly uses cocaine, heroin, or meth that is laced with fentanyl. Apparently, the city’s response to this crisis is simply to encourage addicts to use these drugs as safety as possible.
More specifically, the DOH encourages addicts to “start with a small dose,” use test strips that can detect the present of fentanyl in other drugs, and “take turns” using with friends. The city even has plans to set up vending machines that dispense naloxone (the primary drug used to reverse opioid overdose) and clean needles.
The DOH’s shocking approach, which is a far cry from its 2019 campaign warning against the use of fentanyl and other illegal drugs, was launched in December 2021 and relaunched in early May.
“Why don’t we just start handing out drugs like they are condoms?” argues NYC resident Barbara Blair. “Are we literally telling people how they can consume illegal drugs?” Blair is head of the Garment District Alliance, which is struggling to find a solution to the ever-increasing number of drug addicts in the area.
Luke Nasta, who leads a drug treatment program in Staten Island, said the new ad campaign “demonstrates a society in decline.”
City Councilman Joe Borelli (R) compared the DOH’s concern with COVID regulations to its apparent carelessness regarding fentanyl: “It’s incredible that our [DOH] commissioner thinks that putting useless cloth masks on toddlers is mitigating a real danger, but when it comes to heroin it’s all ‘Take turns you guys’ and ‘Use safely, smartly.’ It’s just bizarre.”
Borelli sent a letter directly to the DOH asking them to withdraw the fentanyl ads and said the commissioner “seems like an ass.” He also appealed to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA): “Does the MTA support encouraging riders to ‘take turns’ using heroin?” he asked. “I mean, it literally says that. Will they remove this?”
On Twitter, Borelli slammed the city’s approach to fentanyl as the “opposite of harm reduction” and rightly claimed that it “normalizes injecting deadly life-changing drugs.”