This article in the Washington Post is about an effort on the part of business, particularly convenience stores and markets, to discourage people from injecting drugs in their restrooms. The method involves installing so-called “blue lights”. The deep blue tinted light makes it difficult for someone to successfully locate and hit a vein with a needle.

You can see why it’s attractive to business in areas where drug activity is common. It’s not just about danger to the user — No one wants customers to find evidence of drug use in the Ladies’ room. Employees are understandably reluctant to deal with blood spatter and used needles.

Unfortunately, such tactics may actually increase risk to the drug user.¬† Many will go ahead and poke around for a vein despite the bad light. IV users desperate for a fix are not risk-averse. They’re okay with¬† taking chances.

Business owners often regard the safety of customers and staff as the prioirty, vs. that of someone who made the choice to use illegal drugs on their property. I doubt they can be talked out of that view. That may lead to early popularity for the “blue light” model. At least until the other customers complain about not being able to see themselves in the mirror.

Actually, there’s a long history of devices intended to discourage people from using or abusing substances, or from the consequences thereof. The ignition interlock is one example. It’s costly but effective in discouraging convicted offenders from driving under the influence. Of course there are workarounds. “I get my 12 year old to blow in the tube for me. He used to do it for $3, but now the brat wants a fiver,” complained one parent. “I borrow the wife’s car,” confessed another. A third paid his neighbor to drive him to the bar. “He’s an alky too, but he hasn’t been caught yet so we’re OK.”

I’ve mentioned the short-lived experiment with talking urinal cakes. The bar patron would approach the urinal and be surprised when a recorded voice spoke up with a warning against excess drinking. I think the cakes cost quite a bit, but then, they really were something of a technological marvel. At some point the bars gave up on the experiment, probably because people were making too much fun of them.

Another innovation down the drain. Literally. I’m sure more are on the way.