What Are Safe Injection Sites & Are Communities Considering Them?

A guest contribution by Patrick Bailey.

What Are Safe Injection Sites & Are Communities Considering Them?

If you were to use your imagination, you could tell that the concept of allowing someone to safely inject drugs into their system is probably going to be controversial in the United States. People might believe that these drug-using individuals should be staying in inpatient treatment centers for drug addiction instead of legally injecting drugs at designated facilities.

Many people wonder if safe injection sites are the appropriate approach to addressing the problem of substance abuse in communities across the United States. In fact, many people have already rejected this kind of approach. That could be why communities have supported needle exchanges more than injection sites.

Benefits of Safe Injection Sites

Still, an impressive amount of research spanning several years has revealed that injection sites could provide benefits to communities. The benefits could include:

  • Reductions in the spread of hepatitis C and HIV
  • Fewer hospital visits or deaths due to overdose
  • Understanding of what causes drug overdoses
  • Information about addiction treatment available to users
  • Reduction in crime in their communities
  • Reduction in use of unclean syringes
  • Increased likelihood of drug users considering addiction treatment

Measures to Reduce Harm

Recognizing drug addiction and the fact that it is a public health problem has led to the acceptance that it produces harm to the user. To reduce that kind of harm means that supervised injection sites could be very helpful to communities negatively affected by drugs.

Across the country, people have taken steps to lessen the dangers of illicit substance abuse. They include:

  • Preventing the exchange of dirty needles
  • Providing public education about drug abuse
  • Stocking public bathrooms and other facilities with clean syringes
  • Making naloxone (Narcan) more accessible. Naloxone is a drug which helps to reverse opioid overdoses

Supervision at Safe Injection Sites

As substance abuse continues to kill people across the United States and around the world, communities and drug rehab facilities are considering the opening of safe injection sites, which will be supervised by medical professionals.

Supervised sites could be helpful to people who already are on drugs and haven’t entered a rehab program. Or, they could be for people who’ve attended treatment programs but could be experiencing relapses. Since it’s safer to use clean needles, communities are considering sponsoring sites that provide needles and trained staff who could respond to overdoses.

The Status of Safe Injection Sites

People are still debating whether communities should operate safe injection sites. Different U.S. communities are seriously considering it.

If passed, a proposed California bill would create a safe injection site pilot program in the city of San Francisco. This bill is still waiting for a signature by the governor. Many people think that there will be challenges to this law and a U.S. Department of Justice representative has threatened to shut it down.

Critics of Safe Injection Sites

Critics of supervised safe injection sites don’t like the approach because they say that the sites encourage substance abuse and could attract crime to communities. Advocates of the sites think that they could save lives and help drug users reconnect to family members and society while giving them health services that could bring them closer to sobriety.

Supervised injections sites give users safe spaces to receive compassion and care. This approach is known as harm reduction because it doesn’t treat addiction but reduces the damage it can do. The sites can also provide education that could help people ultimately become sober.

Countries That Are Trying Harm Reduction Approaches

If the idea is to save the lives of the substance abuse user, some people think that safe injection sites could curb addiction. But if communities don’t try approaches, there’s no way to know if they could work or not. Researchers might want to conduct studies to see if the sites could work in the United States.

Other areas are already operating supervised safe injection sites, so they might serve as examples for the United States. These areas include Canada, Australia, and some countries in Europe.

How Supervised Safe Injection Sites Work

Typically, a drug user enters an injection site with drugs. Some centers test the user’s drugs to make sure that they don’t have any unknown additives that could be particularly harmful, such as the deadly drug fentanyl.

Injection sites provide clean needles and a safe place to use drugs. The centers employ medical staff members and stock the overdose reversal drug naloxone to respond to emergencies. The staff also can provide advice and pertinent information regarding drug treatment.

Supervision at Safe Injection Sites

While the user is administering the drugs, they are supervised by trained medical professionals. This could prevent overdoses and deaths and reduce harm. As an added bonus, injection centers also can reduce outdoor substance abuse and drug-related garbage in their communities.

Many sites in foreign countries exist because of the efforts of grassroots campaigns and different communities. Several sites depend on donations because they lack large budgets. Many of them operate as nonprofit organizations.

Conclusion

When supervised injection sites were being considered in Canada, many people rejected the idea at first. However, with years of activism related to drug use, the government decided to approve a pilot program. Since then, the impact has been noticeable. Therefore, the centers could be a helpful approach for the United States to try.

 

Sources

npr.orgWhat’s the Evidence That Supervised Drug Injection Sites Save Lives?

nursing.usc.eduSupervised Injection Sites Are Coming to United States: Here’s What You Should Know

ncbi.nlm.nih.govDoes Evidence Support Supervised Injection Sites?


About the author:

Safe Injection Sites

Guest writer Patrick Bailey

“I am a professional writer, mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. I attempt to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoy writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them.”

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