“I know all the bathrooms that I can and can’t get high in,” says Eddie, 39, pausing in front of the shop’s plate glass windows, through which we can see a bathroom door.

Eddie, whose last name we’re not including because he uses illegal drugs, knows which restrooms along busy Massachusetts Avenue he can enter, at what hours and for how long. Several restaurants, offices and a social service agency in this neighborhood have closed their restrooms in recent months, but not this sandwich shop.

“With these bathrooms here, you don’t need a key. If it’s vacant you go in. And then the staff just leaves you alone,” Eddie says. “I know so many people who get high here.”

Many businesses don’t know what to do. Some have installed low lighting — blue light, in particular — to make it difficult for people who use injected drugs to find a vein.

The bathrooms at 1369 Coffee House in the Central Square neighborhood of Cambridge, Mass., are open for customers who request the key code from staff at the counter. The owner, Joshua Gerber, has done some remodeling to make the bathrooms safer. There’s a metal box in the wall next to his toilet for needles and other things that clog pipes. And Gerber removed the dropped ceilings in his bathrooms after noticing things tucked above the tiles.

The best solution to this problem is probably to remove the stigma, make medication-assisted treatment readily available, subsidized by the government if necessary and perhaps THEN start getting tough on the “criminality” of drug abuse.  It’s a disease.  It should not be prosecuted heavily until there’s a good, readily available treatment option easily available.  Buprenorphine works wonders!  It blocks the high!  Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) should be readily available before we consider dropping the legal hammer on those who do what comes naturally to addicts–they use!

Dr. Raymond Oenbrink
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