Welcome to America. I found on a park picnic table: 30 syringes, a crack pipe, and prescription opiates

February 4, 2022 by Joshua
in Nature, Visualization

Sorry to get grim, but remember as you read this post that I’m talking about abandoned property in public space. I didn’t ask for it. I just found it.

In my daily picking up litter, I picked up a brown paper bag sitting on a picnic table in Washington Square Park, amid some garbage from finished takeout (likely doof, but I didn’t look close enough to tell) left by someone who, I guess, didn’t feel like carrying their garbage to a trash can. Everything comes in disposable packaging. I find all the poisonous waste disgusting, but I seem to be a minority of approximately one.

The table was in the northwest corner and it was nighttime, meaning the person who left the garbage was a dealer or user. The brown paper bag had stuff in it. Usually if something might still be of value, I hold it up for the people around to claim it in case it’s theirs. This one I looked in first and saw the telltale orange caps of syringes.

I held it up. No one claimed it. I thought it was just a bag of syringes at first. I didn’t feel like leaving drug paraphernalia lying out, so I took it with me. Would I throw it away? I wasn’t sure. But when I looked in more, I saw the syringes were in bags, unused, still capped, suggesting they were safe.

I took the bag home and looked at the contents. It was a pack of supplies given by a homeless advocacy group called Housing Works for users to stay safe, avoiding dangerous street supplies. It contained three bags of clean needles, a bag of more paraphernalia and apparently a drug called suboxone, and in a foam envelope I think a crack pipe. I didn’t feel like unsealing the envelope.

Here’s the Wikipedia page on suboxone:

Buprenorphine/naloxone, sold under the brand name Suboxone among others, is a fixed-dose combination medication that includes buprenorphine and naloxone. It is used to treat opioid use disorder, and reduces the mortality of opioid use disorder by 50% (namely by reducing the risk of overdose on full-agonist opioids such as heroin or fentanyl). It relieves cravings to use and withdrawal symptoms.

Here’s the opened bag of needles.

Here’s the rest of the stuff and the paper bag it all came in.

So now I have some prescription opiate, crack pipe, syringes, and other stuff. I presume Housing Works distributes it to help users stay safe, acting compassionately. I don’t disagree with their thinking. They didn’t cause people to use opiates and data likely shows that distributing this stuff without judgment saves lives and probably decreases use.

But I didn’t post to reflect on the treatment. I posted to reflect on our culture in which heavy drug use permeates our public space. I see it arising from isolation and hopelessness. In other words, we live in an isolating, hopeless culture, at least for a lot of people. The closest buildings are luxury, likely ridiculously expensive. NYU dominates the area as an institution, owning every building around the park but one. NYU has become an elite university. No doubt residents of the luxury buildings are considering moving. Who wants crack, meth, and fentanyl users in their back yard? I don’t see NYU acknowledging or acting on the problem, though I suspect their dominating the space decreases the diversity of park use that might keep it more lively with people more vested in its long-term stability and health. I’ve seen police cars idling with cops in them maybe ten meters away from this corner of the park, not doing anything despite the rampant crime.

This is America in 2022

This is America in 2022. Drug use is rampant. Community norms have adjusted to accept it. We have given up on the users and accepted futility as a society. From my perspective, the substance abuse of the addictive white powder refined from plants of sugar is a bigger problem and way more prevalent throughout the park. If we don’t act, we can expect the problem to grow.

I’m posting this not because I like the situation, but because if it exists, I only see it changing if people act. It doesn’t have to be this way. Communities acting to reduce isolation and helplessness seem the most important response. People will only act if they know about it. It’s happening all over the country, in part because our culture isolates so much. Now you know about it, and you likely have the problems of meth, fentanyl, sugar, fat, salt, and crack near you too. I think you’re better off knowing than not. I’d love to hear if people live in any part of America untouched by fentanyl, meth, and crank.

From the drugs.com page on the drug:


Suboxone can slow or stop your breathing, and may be habit-forming. MISUSE OF THIS MEDICINE CAN CAUSE ADDICTION, OVERDOSE, OR DEATH, especially in a child or other person using the medicine without a prescription.

Taking Suboxone during pregnancy may cause life-threatening withdrawal symptoms in the newborn.

Fatal side effects can occur if you use this medicine with alcohol, or with other drugs that cause drowsiness or slow your breathing.

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1 response to “Welcome to America. I found on a park picnic table: 30 syringes, a crack pipe, and prescription opiates

  1. Pingback: Nuclear and renewables look like methadone » Joshua Spodek

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