Our society tends to avoid talking about hard topics. Without giving these hard topics the attention they rightfully deserve, nothing will get resolved. One of those hard topics is an addiction. The textbook definition of addiction, according to Webster's Dictionary, is, "the fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance, thing, or activity." Many people have differing views and opinions on addiction, but no matter what you believe, everyone can agree this is a topic that is in dire need of attention and action.
One man in Maine has taken it upon himself to make some kind of a difference to opioid addicts in his and surrounding states. Because it is illegal in Maine to possess more than ten syringes at a time unless you are a certified syringe exchange, he remains nameless. He created the Church of Safe Injection under an alias.
On no particular morning of the week, you can find this man and other volunteers standing at a folding table with handmade signs offering syringe swaps and coffee. These volunteers argue that there have been far too many opioid overdose deaths to continue playing the role of a bystander, and, although they risk getting arrested, they do whatever they possibly can to make the hard cycle of addiction a little safer.
The usual spot for this group to congregate and hand out clean supplies is a local park. Police have warned them that they cannot make exchanges on state grounds because it is illegal. So, the Church for Safe Injections has begun meeting people wherever they are for these exchanges.
Whether it be parking lots or street corners, this group will drive a car packed full of syringes, alcohol wipes, and Narcan to wherever people in need are located. Supplies offered to addicts even include test strips for the deadly opioid fentanyl. They keep detailed records of everything they hand out and ask for used syringes in exchange for clean ones in an attempt to keep used ones off the streets.
Many argue that by doing this, The Church of Safe Injection is merely making it easier for users to abuse the drugs they are addicted to. However, there is a fine line between enabling and preventative maintenance. No one is attempting to legalize the use of these drugs; they are trying to make recovery easier. The founder has commented on his hesitation about what he is doing; addiction is a terrible disease that no one deserves to suffer from.
He says what pushes him to continue running his church is the unreasonable amount of barriers currently in place that keep recovery out of reach for so many users. Not only do these barriers include harshly strict treatment rules, but treatment centers are sparse and limited. There are only six centers in Maine and none within reasonable proximity of where The Church of Safe Injection was founded.
These volunteers are seeking a religious exemption from the law that prohibits citizens from having more than ten syringes in their possession at once. The intentions of this foundation are only pure. Millions of people all over the world suffer from addiction, and treatment should be readily available and easily accessible to everyone.