There are over 40 scientific studies speaking to the benefits of safe injection sites. So, why don’t we have them?
The question is a lot more complex than you might think. First, there are a lot of legal questions about how to create a safe space to inject illicit substances. Additionally, because of the stigmas about drug addicts, a lot of people don’t want to offer a place for these individuals to congregate.
Clearly, safe injection sites are a complex issue, and there are strong opinions on both sides. So, what does each side have to say? Let’s dive into the pros and cons of these safe injection sites to get a better understanding of this debate.
What is a Safe Injection Site?
Because they aren’t found in the United States, you might have never even heard of a safe injection site. They go by many other names as well, like supervised consumption services or drug consumption rooms. So, what exactly are these facilities?
Safe injection sites are facilities where drug users can go to safely consume drugs without legal ramifications. Of course, they can only consume drugs they obtained themselves. Staff members do not provide drugs, handle drugs or assist users with consumption.
Instead, the staff is available to check on drug users and provide sterile supplies for injections. They also watch for overdosing and administer first aid if required.
Additionally, staff members are well-trained on nearby detox and rehabilitation centers. Having access to these individuals makes it easy for drug users to find out more about possible treatment options if they decide they want to quit.
There’s a huge public health movement in the United States to install these sites. And there are currently at least 13 in progress across the country. But these efforts have also experienced major resistance.
So, what do the critics and supporters have to say about the issue?
Cons of Safe Injection Sites
Critics of safe injection sites typically believe that they encourage drug use. That’s because at these sites, drug users do not have any legal repercussions for consuming illicit substances.
Critics also believe that drug users will flock to communities with these sites and increase the crime rate. The reasoning is that drug addicts are more likely to engage in these types of activities.
But studies performed in communities with injection sites concluded that there were not any increases in crimes associated with drug abuse. Critics also claim that these studies are biased and therefore are not trustworthy.
But so far, only one meta-analysis has refuted the strong positives associated with safe injection sites. And this study was actually retracted for being too biased
Finally, it is important to take into consideration that these sites contradict federal law. After all, consuming these illicit substances is illegal in the United States. There is the argument that these studies, which have only taken place in other countries, may not be applicable to the United States.
Unfortunately, the type of study that would be conclusive would be a randomized trial. But this would require only half of the groups have access to one of these centers. Since these centers are potentially life-saving, it would be unethical to deny access to a randomized group.
Pros of Safe Injection Sites
So, what are some of the benefits of safe injection sites? First of all, because sterile supplies are available, there is a reduced risk of HIV and Hepatitis C since drug users don’t have to share needles.
They also reduce the risk of overdosing. There’s never been a fatal overdose at a supervised injection site. And communities with these sites experience an overall decrease in overdose mortality. This, in turn, frees up emergency medical resources to be used for other purposes.
Additionally, since drug addicts are injecting these drugs in a safe location, they will not need to inject these drugs in a public place. This protects the public from potentially dangerous situations. It decreases their exposure to individuals under the influence of drugs. This also prevents the number of needles disposed of in public, since the facility disposes of all used syringes.
Safe injection sites also increase medical and social service delivery. Facility workers are well-informed about local detox and rehabilitation programs. This makes it easy for drug users to get information about these services and start the process of addiction recovery when they’re ready.
Finally, while these facilities sound expensive, they actually save cities money in the long run. Studies have found that cities with these facilities could save millions of dollars each year due to reduced medical costs.
Safe Injection Sites: Dangerous or Safe Havens?
So, should we install safe injection sites in the United States? There is no way of knowing for sure. But it appears that implementing these facilities offers a lot more positives than negatives for the local community.
Drug addiction can be difficult. But you are not alone: in 2017, 19.7 million individuals had a substance abuse disorder.
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