This far into the opioid epidemic, you can hardly find someone who doesn’t have a strong opinion as to what the answer is to our nationwide problem. Some have called for deeper criminalization of drug offenders, others have called for the de-criminalization of substances completely and along with that are people finding another strange alternative; safe injection sites.
Supervised injection rooms are legally sanctioned facilities where people who use intravenous drugs can inject pre-obtained drugs under medical supervision. Supervised injection facilities are designed to reduce the health and societal problems associated with injection drug use. The first supervised injection site in North America opened in 2003 in Vancouver, Canada. There are now almost 100 SIF’s all over the globe in 66 cities around the world in nine countries (Germany, The Netherlands, Norway, Luxembourg, Denmark, Spain, Australia and Canada)
There are no such facilities in the US, but the Drug Policy Alliance is advocating for supervised injection pilot programs in San Francisco and New York City. They are working to expand the national dialogue on drug control to include policies and programs that lessen the harms of drug use without mandating abstinence.
Supervised Injection Facilities provide an environment with sterile injection equipment, health care, referrals for treatment and access to medical staff. They have been proven successful in diminishing public disorder associated with recreational drug use, including improper syringe disposal and public drug use. SIF’s have been explored for years. The proof has shown that they reduce HIV and Hepatitis transmission risks, inhibit overdose deaths, reduce public injections, reduce discarded syringes and actually increase the number or people who enter drug treatment. Some Injection Facilities offer counseling and other services that encourage addict to get completely clean.
It may seem counterproductive, but with overdose deaths skyrocketing every day, we need to think outside of the box. Preventing deaths should be the number one priority, however that may be. Keeping an addict alive gets them closer to recovery, and safe spaces ensure that.