With the ongoing opioid crisis in the U.S., lawmakers and experts alike are searching for solutions to reduce deadly opioid overdoses and prevent further addiction and abuse of opioid drugs. Some people believe safe injection sites are an effective way to prevent drug overdoses and other negative effects associated with opioid addiction, but not everyone agrees.
What is a Safe Injection Site?
Safe injection sites go by many names, including supervised consumption services, overdose prevention centers, fix rooms, medically supervised injection centers, and drug consumption rooms. However, they all provide the same basic service: medical supervision for people who want to inject pre-obtained drugs.
At safe injection sites, drug users are provided with sterile injection equipment and medical oversight by trained staff members. These facilities also have overdose-reversal medication on-hand to use if someone overdoses.
About 100 different safe injection sites are operating worldwide and they have been a success in Canada. As of January 2018, just a few cities in the U.S. allow them (Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Seattle) but others are considering it.1,2
Are Safe Injection Sites Effective?
According to the American Medical Association, studies from other countries where safe injection sites are operating legally have reported that they are effective in several different ways:
- They reduce overdose deaths.
- They decrease infectious disease transmission (primarily HIV and hepatitis C).
- They increase the number of individuals initiating treatment for substance use disorders.
- They don’t increase drug trafficking or crime in the areas where facilities are located.3
According to the Penn Wharton Public Policy Initiative, one safe injection site that has been operating “underground” in the U.S. since 2014 in an undisclosed urban area. Between 2014 and 2016, it provided medical care to about 100 opioid addicts and assisted with more than 2,574 injections. Within these injections, there were two overdoses, but both were reversed with naloxone.4
Additionally, each patient at the underground facility was given a survey before injection. Survey findings revealed 67.4 percent of users at the site disposed of their used syringes unsafely in the past 30 days. Since all syringes are disposed of safely at the facility, the safe injection site prevented 1,725 public disposals of syringes and prevented 92.2 percent of injections that would have occurred elsewhere in public, such as a public bathroom.4
Safe Injection Site Pros and Cons
Safe injection sites in the U.S. are highly controversial due to the various positive and negative consequences associated with them. The debate also begs the question of whether drug abuse prevention or harm reduction is more feasible and effective. Experts on either side of the issue don’t seem to have any solid answers.
Here are some of the most commonly disputed cons of safe injection sites.
WHAT ARE THE CONS OF SAFE INJECTION SITES?
Conversely, according to the Drug Policy Alliance, there are several benefits of implementing safe injection sites in the U.S.8
WHAT ARE THE PROS OF SAFE INJECTION SITES?
Safe Injection Sites and Rehab
Naturally, you may be wondering what safe injection sites have to do with rehab. The two seem very much opposite, as safe injection sites encourage “safe” drug abuse and drug rehab encourages ongoing abstinence. However, some supporters of safe injection sites argue that medical workers within these facilities may have a very unique advantage. These facilities could provide more opportunities to reach addicted individuals.
For example, some of the drug users utilizing safe injection sites may return on a regular basis, which may result in ongoing relationships between the medical workers and the drug abusers. In this scenario, the medical workers may be in an optimal position to present addiction treatment options like detox and rehab when the drug abuser is ready.
When someone asks for addiction help, effective support and assistance must be provided right away, otherwise, the person may change their mind, relapse, or overdose. Some experts say trained professionals at safe injection sites have the ability to provide immediate referrals to drug rehab programs and/or detox programs.
Are Safe Injection Sites a Good Idea?
Whether safe injection sites are a good idea or not is subjective. In theory, a safe injection site could provide essential social and health services where they are needed most: in the midst of addiction. However, not everyone is comfortable with having such a facility in their neighborhood or city.
Following a two-year study of the undisclosed “underground” U.S. safe injection site mentioned above, addiction researchers found that its patrons were able to reduce the personal and social risks of their drug use, and take steps toward their recovery.11 Although the verdict is still out and the use of safe injection sites is still very much a controversial matter, some addiction researchers believe they hold potential.
If you or a loved one is ready to begin your journey to sobriety, call Nova Recovery Center today for more information on our addiction treatment programs for adults.