Are You Freaking Serious? Debate ensues over San Francisco providing alcohol, drugs to homeless in hotels

            What on Earth kind of idiots are you electing California?  This article reports:

Department of Public Health officials in San Francisco assure the public that a program providing homeless, recovering drug addicts– housed in hotels during the pandemic–with methadone, alcohol and marijuana, comes at no cost to taxpayers.

            Never mind costs, or the politics of it, how about the ethics of it? As a physician, I can’t support this. I doubt politicians have had classes on medical ethics and the concept of Nonmaleficence: non-harming or inflicting the least harm possible to reach a beneficial outcome. They say it’s part of a plan to help the unhoused population quarantine rather than out on the streets.” This statement is noble in and of itself, but I just think the ends here don’t justify the means. Why don’t we just put gas on fire? I do think they are trying to do something good by trying to contain the coronavirus in a vulnerable population, but a free hotel and free drugs and alcohol? Dr. Grant Colfax MD from San Francisco’s Department of Public Health says:

“Meeting them where they are so that they can be cared for in the most appropriate way. In the way that’s good for them and for our community.”

            Again, the goals are noble, but I believe the means to be more harmful. Drug addicts and alcoholics die every day as a direct result of the drug/alcohol use as well as the sequela of such use. Part of the argument justifying this action is that it is protecting society as a whole. But is that really the altruistic greater good? Protecting society? At what cost? Enabling unhealthy behavior directly harming individuals? Are these individuals of lessor value to society such that the harm bestowed upon them is worth the cost? Is this really manipulation and taking advantage of vulnerable people? 

Just questions for thought as it seems this action wasn’t very well thought out. How about substance abuse TREATMENT instead of free drugs/alcohol? I’d like to ask Dr. Colfax for his sources on the following statement:

“Our philosophy in terms of treating those who suffer from addiction, substance use disorders is really again focused on science and the medical literature,”


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Robert Duprey MD

Robert is a 2nd career physician (MD); a combat Veteran with the US Army; a former psychiatric nurse practitioner; an independent researcher; a medical writer; and now having passed USMLE Steps 1, 2CK, 2CS, and 3, is a residency applicant. 

  4 comments for “Are You Freaking Serious? Debate ensues over San Francisco providing alcohol, drugs to homeless in hotels

  1. Joe Fields-Johnson
    June 4, 2020 at 1:44 pm

    Harm reduction is a necessary part of medical practice. Withdrawal from alcohol specifically is dangerous and will cause people to put themselves at risk of Covid-19 during a very high risk time leaving their safe space to seek alcohol or go to the hospital in withdrawals. Marijuana is approved for medical use in California and many states. Methadone is a prescribed medical therapy that is known to be quite effective to help people function well in society and lead a normal life. I do not understand your critique. They are following best medical practices to support appropriate care of their community. Please do some more research next time; these views are sustaining very bad medical practice.

  2. PW
    June 1, 2020 at 6:30 am

    Next thing you know they’ll be turning police stations over to rioters to burn.

    • June 4, 2020 at 7:48 pm

      I think I read about giving rioters police cars to burn on last week’s news.

  3. Edward Chastka
    May 31, 2020 at 1:13 pm

    The difficulty of finding and paying for drugs and alcohol is one of the factors that helps restrain people’s use. Problem solved. Now the government will deliver it to you in your government subsidized hotel room.Like so many well intentioned social programs this one appears headed for a bad outcome. I wonder how many will die or damage their health while being “helped.” Our little city of Reading, Pa. put homeless people up in hotels for the Covid crisis. None died of Covid but one died of a drug overdose. Drugs and alcohol will soon be considered an entitlement. It is time to stop paying less attention to people’s good intentions and more to their bad outcomes.

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