A new study found that 77% of drug user were willing to utilize safe consumption sites.
“Safe consumption sites” provide a space to use drugs under medical supervision, away from the streets and with clean equipment such as syringes. They have existed abroad since the ‘80s but not in the U.S. (at least not legally). Some are for them, some are against them. But what about the drug using community?
Safe consumption programs (also known as supervised injection facilities or SIFs) in Canada and Australia have reported reductions in fatal overdoses and the spread of HIV and hepatitis B and C. As the U.S. faces crisis-level opioid abuse and overdose, it is now forced to confront the potential of SIFs across the country.
A new study confirmed the willingness of “high-risk opioid users” to utilize these sites as a form of harm reduction. In a survey of 326 people who reported using heroin, fentanyl and illicit opioid pills, about 77% of them reported that they were willing to go to SIFs.
Among the respondents, 60% reported habitually using drugs in “public or semi-public” spaces, and more than a third had overdosed in the past six months.
The research was led by a team at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and was published in the Journalof Urban Health in June.
“On the whole, we found a strong willingness to use safe consumption spaces,” said study lead author Ju Nyeong Park. “This is important because often the voices of people who use drugs are not included in policy debates or in the implementation of public health interventions.”
The research confirmed that the majority of respondents are “motivated to be safe and take precautions to reduce their exposure to harm,” said study senior investigator Susan Sherman.
“It’s encouraging because even though these are people engaging in very high-risk behaviors in very different contexts… they were willing to use this harm-reduction intervention,” said Park.
100 Safe Consumption Sites In 12 Countries
Currently there are more than 100 such facilities in 12 countries, though none are in the United States. A legal battle taking place in Philadelphia may affect the future of SIFs in the U.S.
In April, it was reported that Safehouse, a local non-profit organization involved in efforts to establish the nation’s first SIFs in Philadelphia, countersued the government in its attempt to block efforts to open the sites. They argued that SIFs are less about drugs and more about providing a medical service, in addition to giving people the option to access treatment.