Burgerville tests way to stop drug use in bathrooms

Portland has needle drop boxes at the waterfront

The syringe drop boxes were implemented as part of a year-long pilot project for the Healthy Streets Initiative. (KOIN)
The syringe drop boxes were implemented as part of a year-long pilot project for the Healthy Streets Initiative. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — With a growing issue of intravenous drug use, companies and authorities are looking for ways to protect the public from used needles.

“People started switching to heroin and intravenous drug use because of price and availability,” Multnomah County Health Department STD, HIV and Harm Reduction Director Kim Toevs said.

The health department has set up two collection bins on the waterfront and offers a needle exchange program to protect the public from disease and discarded needles.

“This past year, we will have exchanged 3.4 million syringes,” Toevs said. “We are exchanging around 325,000 syringes a month.”

Portland police said the increase in needle use is increasing both locally and nationally.

“The opiate problem is growing and there is a lot of people getting addicted to heroin through prescription medication,” Sgt. Pete Simpson said.

Officers carry sharps containers and gloves in their patrol cars to safely discard needles while they work.

A Burgerville in downtown Portland has installed blue lights in the bathroom to deter drug users. (KOIN)
A Burgerville in downtown Portland has installed blue lights in the bathroom to deter drug users. (KOIN)

One way to deter drug users in business has caught on nationally and Burgerville is testing it out in one of their downtown Portland locations. The restaurant installed dark blue light bulbs a few months ago that make it difficult to see veins and shoot up.

Commercial businesses are also installing sharps containers because even those using legitimate drugs like insulin might have a need to dispose of them properly.

“It’s against the law to throw syringes in the garbage for anybody,” Toevs said.

The goal is to keep employees and customers safe from dangerous drug use, but officials from the Multnomah County Health Department said that might not stop everyone.

“IV drug users are usually pretty practiced so they can find their veins by feel and not looking,” mental health and addictions official Devarshi Bajpai said. “So it may deter some people minimally.”