Not medically reviewed by Erin Stair, MD, MPH
As illegal drug use continues to lead to death and disease around the world, a new approach to managing the crisis aims to offer a safe space for drug users while also advocating for counseling and rehabilitation support. Safe injection sites are becoming increasingly prevalent worldwide, and they provide many benefits for drug users and their communities.
What Are Safe Injection Sites?
Safe injection sites are facilities in which drug users can inject illegal drugs with no legal repercussions under the watchful care of medical professionals. These safe injection sites, also known as overdose prevention sites, supervised injection sites, and drug consumption rooms, provide a clean and safe environment with sterile tools for people to ensure their safety during drug use. Additionally, the medical professionals usually have a stock of overdose antidotes on hand, like Naloxone, should someone accidentally overdose.
How Do Safe Injection Sites Work?
At a safe injection site, people bring their intravenous drugs to the facility. There, they can use new, sterile needles to inject the drugs into their bloodstream. Medical professionals are on hand to monitor users and ensure their health and safety during and after injection. The sites are free, and drug users won’t be arrested for using illegal drugs while on the premises.
Where to Find Safe Injection Sites
Safe injection sites are controversial, so they haven’t yet gained traction in some countries, like the United States. However, other nations have opened successful safe injection sites and seen noticeable benefits. Countries implementing these facilities include:
- The Netherlands.
If you live in one of these countries, do some research online or talk to your primary healthcare provider to find the nearest safe injection site to you.
Benefits of Safe Injection Sites
Safe injection sites have been closely monitored for efficacy and benefits since their inception. It’s clear that these facilities provide many advantages for drug users, their families and friends, and their communities, including:
- Decrease in disease: Since drug users have access to sterile needles and supplies, the spread of diseases like HIV and hepatitis C is much lower.
- Fewer deaths: With supervision from medical professionals, fewer drug users die as a result of an overdose.
- Reduced hospitalizations: In addition to fewer deaths, there are also fewer hospitalizations.
- Improved understanding: The staff working at safe injection sites build relationships with drug users and deepen their professional understanding of who’s at risk for addiction and how to best help addicted people recover.
- Less dangerous waste: When people have a safe, indoor space to use drugs, there’s less drug paraphernalia abandoned on the streets and in public areas.
- Higher likelihood of treatment: People who visit safe injection sites are more likely to seek treatment than those who use drugs on the streets.
- Decline in overall drug use: Those who use drugs in safe injection sites generally use drugs less frequently.
- Lower related crime rates: Safe injection sites reduce petty crimes associated with drug use.
- Increase in savings: Less need for emergency services and hospital visits saves taxpayers money.
All in all, safe injection sites offer a number of impressive benefits for drug users and their communities.