Safe Injection Sites – Pros and Cons

Safe injection sites, or Supervised Injection Sites (SiS) are increasingly controversial as the concept becomes more prevalent across the United States, but what does science say? If you’re a parent or one of your loved ones is using or addicted, it can be easy to say that no, safe injection sites aren’t good, they encourage using, but there are a lot of facets to the problem.

Today, many U.S. cities are considering safe injection sites, often to controversy and uproar. But, should safe injection sites be a thing?

In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of safe-injection sites, giving you an objective view of why you should or should not be in favor of them.

What Are Safe Injection Sites?

Safe Injection Sites are found as Overdose Prevention, Supervised Injection, and Drug Consumption Rooms. No matter what the name, their purpose remains the same – facilitating the safer use of illegal and illicit drugs through providing clean facilities, education, and medical supervision. Most of these facilities are staffed by individuals who exist to answer questions, provide sterile equipment, and who clean up after users. They do not handle, provide, sell, or administer drugs at any time. Many are also capable of referring individuals to drug treatment and rehab centers, where they can get help for their problems.

In most cases, Safe Injection Sites also offer stocks of overdose prevention medication such as Naloxone, have the ability to quickly get an individual to the hospital should they overdose, and provide on-site emergency medical care where necessary.

The idea is that providing a safe injection site will reduce the risk of drug overdose and death, will decrease disease and infection caused by poor hygiene and facilities, and will increase individual exposure to options for treatment and recovery. This is reflected in educational material, references to rehab centers, and staff on hand to answer questions and offer guidance.

Pros of Safe Injection Sites

Safe Injection Sites have been proven effective at most of their goals, with peer reviewed studies showing an overall decrease in overdose related deaths. In fact, to date, there have been no instances of overdose resulting in death at any of over 120 SiS facilities worldwide.

Safe Injection Sites also result in:

  • Reduction of HIV and Hepatitis C spread in drug using communities.
  • Reduction in disease-spreading behavior such as sharing needles
  • Reducing overall disease and death and therefore medical costs
  • Reducing public injection and therefore public danger

Most Safe Injection Sites are also linked to positive changes in drug use of clients on-site, with studies linking safe injection sites and harm reduction to an overall decrease in drug use by frequent clients and a higher rate of seeking rehabilitation and recovery.

literature review of over 100 studies of Safe Injection sites determines that SIS’s result in:

  • 88 fewer overdose deaths per 100,000 users
  • 67% reduction in ambulance calls for overdoses
  • 6-57 HIV infection preventions per year depending on the SiS facility
  • Reduction in average length of drug-related hospital stays from 14 to 9 days
  • Reduction in syringe sharing from 37% to 2%

These statistics are overall important and powerful in that they reflect the positive impact of Safe Injection Sites. However, Safe Injection Sites also have cons, and it is important to consider those as well before making a decision.

Cons of Safe Injection Sites

There are currently over 170 Safe Injection Sites worldwide. While some, like in Vancouver, have been in place since the early 90s, most are very new and there is relatively little data showing how they impact their surrounding neighborhoods.

Arguments against Safe Injection Sites are as follows:

They Encourage Drug Use – One of the largest fears against safe injection sites is that they simply enable continued drug use. Without facing disease, needle shortage, or hardship, individuals may be more likely to continue using drugs. At the same time, the easy availability of needles and safe facilities may make individuals feel as though drug use is more accepted and okay, therefore allowing them to continue using. Proponents argue that these individuals would be using anyway and that reducing chances of infection and disease spread simply reduce medical costs as a whole, because individuals are given needles and anti-overdose medication instead of taken to a hospital for major health problems.

They Bring Crime – While Safe Injection Sites exist to enable drug use in a safe environment, they don’t supply or sell drugs in any way. Many argue that this encourages drug dealers to set up shop near these locations, effectively bringing crime and drug sales into neighborhoods. However, studies have shown no real effect, with no change in average drug sales or robberies, and an actual decrease in vehicular break-ins in SiS neighborhoods. This likely tracks to individuals not needing to break into a vehicle to use in safety rather than a reduction in theft-related crime. So, the likely impact of a Safe Injection Site on crime is likely to be none or positive rather than negative.

Safe Injection Sites Cost Money – Most people don’t want to fund someone else’s drug use and for good reason. Safe Injection Sites cost money and a lot of it, which can be a huge negative factor, especially in poorer areas. However, current Safe Injection Sites actually operate at a net positive, with Vancouver’s SiS saving the city an estimated $6 million in medical and emergency costs each year, after the cost of the facility.

Safe Injection Sites are controversial, but most data shows they have a net positive. For those with loved ones who are addicted, they can be even more important, because they represent a safe place to seek out information. They also give your loved one a safe place to use that does not involve sharing needles, potentially contracting diseases, or getting infections from using non-sterile equipment or water.

Safe Injection Sites do enable drug use, but they also keep individuals safe while exposing them to education and information which will help them to seek out treatment. SiS will also reduce total medical costs (including those paid by taxpayers), and increase the safety of users, all of whom are human beings with families.

Please contact Beginnings Treatment Centers today for an honest talk about addiction or alcoholism with one of our experienced and professional addiction treatment team. We can answer any questions you may have with no cost or obligation.