The nation’s opioid epidemic shows no signs of slowing down and some states are taking unconventional measures to address the problem. The latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) show that opioid overdose deaths are actually accelerating by as much as 30 percent across the U.S. Even hospitalizations in certain parts of the country related to opioid addiction have gone up nearly 70 percent. Several states and major U.S. cities are now looking at opening safe spaces for injecting heroin as a means to address this crisis.

What are Safe Injection Sites?

A safe injection site, also referred to as a supervised drug consumption facility (SCF) or supervised injection service, is a place where people can go to use drugs in a safe and sterile environment. There are trained staff and supervisors on the premises, and clean needles are provided to drug users. The staff has access to the overdose antidote naloxone should it be needed, and there is also opioid addiction treatment help available.

Safe injection sites are a harm reduction approach to the addiction issue, and they are not without controversy. The truth is that people who use IV drugs are not only at risk for overdose and death but also dangerous diseases such as hepatitis C and HIV from needle sharing. Some of the major U.S. cities that are moving toward opening safe injection sites include San Francisco, Seattle, and Philadelphia. Other cities also considering sites are New York City, Denver, and Ithaca, NY. This has opened up the debate on the effectiveness of these services once again.

The Arguments For and Against Safe Injection Sites

Using safe injection sites to reduce harm is not a new concept. They have been in operation for years throughout Europe, Australia, and Canada. This has provided plenty of research material, and the results are encouraging. Studies on these types of services have shown that they are effective in reducing emergency-related calls, drug overdoses, and general nuisance or public disorder that comes with drug use. Also of note, there is a drop in the behaviors that can lead to the transmission of hepatitis C and HIV.

The U.S. has a long-running war on drugs, and it is difficult for many to let go of the criminal stigma that policymakers want to attach to any type of drug use and abuse. With this view, some communities and particularly the federal government takes a dim view of giving anyone a “safe space” to use an illegal drug. There have been some “unsanctioned” safe injection sites operating in the U.S. for years that have already come under threat by the current Justice Department. Some critics warn that supervised facilities will just lead to more drug use, but there is no research to back up this claim.

Addiction treatment

A safe injection site can reduce harm but also encourage an addict to access addiction treatment.

Using Safe Injection Sites to Promote Addiction Treatment

The truth is that most people who are addicted to drugs are not too happy about their circumstances and would be thrilled to find a way out. Research related to using some safe injection sites to promote addiction treatment proves this to be the case. In two reviews, one from the 2014 Drug and Alcohol Dependence and the other from the 2017 edition of Current HIV/AIDS Reports, concluded that safe injection sites were successful in promoting drug treatment.

Not only do people who access these safe injection services have a desire to stay alive and protect their health, but many also want to stop using drugs altogether but just do not know how. No one knows what the future holds for these services in the U.S., but there is compassionate and effective addiction treatment available this moment if you are ready to make a change. Contact us now to learn about our comprehensive drug rehab programs and take the first step toward breaking free from the chains of addiction.

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