A real environmental crisis: it’s Raining Needles. Alternate title: Why I Stopped Wearing Flip-flops in Public.
They hide in weeds along hiking trails and in playground grass. They wash into rivers and float downstream to land on beaches. They pepper baseball dugouts, sidewalks and streets. Syringes left by drug users amid the heroin crisis are turning up everywhere.
In Portland, Maine, officials have collected more than 700 needles so far this year, putting them on track to handily exceed the nearly 900 gathered in all of 2016. In March alone, San Francisco collected more than 13,000 syringes, compared with only about 2,900 in the same month in 2016.
People, often children, risk getting stuck by discarded needles, raising the prospect they could contract blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis or HIV or be exposed to remnants of heroin or other drugs.
Needles turn up in places like parks, baseball diamonds, trails and beaches — isolated spots where drug users can gather and attract little attention, and often the same spots used by the public for recreation. The needles are tossed out of carelessness or the fear of being prosecuted for possessing them.
One child was poked by a needle left on the grounds of a Utah elementary school. Another youngster stepped on one while playing on a beach in New Hampshire.
Even if adults or children don’t get sick, they still must endure an unsettling battery of tests to make sure they didn’t catch anything. The girl who put a syringe in her mouth was not poked but had to be tested for hepatitis B and C, her mother said.
Some community advocates are trying to sweep up the pollution.
Rocky Morrison leads a cleanup effort along the Merrimack River, which winds through the old milling city of Lowell, and has recovered hundreds of needles in abandoned homeless camps that dot the banks, as well as in piles of debris that collect in floating booms he recently started setting.
In truth, this is merely a physical manifestation of the inner crises of all too many. These people want to escape from reality, become trapped by their escape route, then become heedless of all things — except for the next time they get a ride along the escape route. There are many means of being set free from this trap. One of them is death. In the meantime, more escape, more death and more discarded needles.
The most sinister spiritual component to heroin and many other drugs does not inhabit the users, however, but the providers. Even if all drugs were to become legal tomorrow, that would not change.
The question is this: what can be done for those who are caught up in this web? I think most solutions of the earthly variety are already available. These people need the Great Healer. Their inner environment needs to be made clean.
Juliette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. (Her older blog is located here.) Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was published in 2012. Her second novel tentatively titled Arlen’s Harem, will be done one day soon! Follow her on Twitter and on Gab.ai.
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