The proponents of safe injection sites feel that the sites are a welcome addition to the fight against addiction. Specifically, they believe that they are a benefit to public health and the community. On the other hand, the opponents of safe injection sites vehemently insist that these sites cause roadblocks in the battle against addiction. They also believe that these sites do nothing to deter drug use or help the recovering addict.
What is a Safe Injection Site?
According to the Drug Policy Alliance:
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.
Other names for include safe injection sites supervised injection facilities, fix rooms, and medically supervised injection centers (MSIC).
The Possible Pros of Safe Injection Sites
They may benefit the community. Several research findings have shown that a safe injection site leads to a crime decline in the community. There is a decline of dangerous habits like sharing needles and the accompanying incidences of HIV infections.
The city of Vancouver, Canada has seen this change. Once a facility was set up, the number of discarded used needles in the alleyways plummeted by a significant margin. As a result, the authorities in the city – including the police – have opted to fully support the initiative of safe injection sites.
Studies further show that that use of such a facility tremendously improves the injection behavior of addicts. Indeed, it was noted that recovering addicts using the services did not show any indication of being negatively influenced using the facility.
A Safe Option
Many proponents of safe injection sites appreciate the fact that this benefit to the community should not be stifled by jurisdictional issues. They feel that denying recovering addicts the use of such a facility would result in unnecessary deaths on the street.
For the last 15 years, safe injection sites in Canada have not reported any incidences of deaths from overdose of addicts under their care. Insite records administering an average of 650 daily injections. This was as an intervention measure for addicts who would otherwise do it in the streets and at great risk to their lives.
In 2016 alone, there were a total of over 200 drug overdose interventions. In other words, they had to administer oxygen and drugs to addicts who were on the verge of death. Life-threatening overdoses within half a kilometer of Insite declined by as much as 1/3 since the facility was set up.
Stepping Stone to Treatment?
Proponents see supervised injection facilities as the right step towards detox and treatment. In Europe, Switzerland and Germany worked on a successful model in which the safe injection facilities were used as a conduit for offering recovering addicts with a connection to the services of treatment and enforcement.
The two countries reported massive success in offering referrals to detox facilities. In 2007, 45% of addicts in Germany achieved total recovery and abstinence following the implementation of this program. In Switzerland, 43% achieved recovery.
Studies Are Showing
Clients feel safer. Studies have shown that recovering addicts using the safe injection centers felt more physically and psychologically safe, as opposed to those injecting in the street. Injecting in the streets comes with a myriad of challenges. Many addicted women reported encountering incidences of sexual harassment and rape.
Other addicts experienced physical violence arising from disputes, and many complained of having been forced to share drugs and needles. Also, they cited the risk of arrest whenever they were caught using in the street. Injecting at a facility assures the addict that the nature and quality of the drugs they are using are safe.
The Cons of Safe Injection Sites
They may encourage drug use. Opponents contend that the facilities are a threat to public safety. They see them as a safe haven for drug users, peddlers, and predators. Furthermore, they argue that drug use is a matter of personal choice.
And so these facilities should not be allowed to operate. Plus, they feel it infringes on the rights of those who want nothing to do with illegal drugs in the community.
They may challenge federal control. The federal government is likely to lose its control over the drugs policy. This could lead to a lack of uniformity across the country in regulating the safe injection sites. In Canada, Insite took the federal government to court in 2008, opposing its oversight over Insite’s operations.
This happened after the facility was denied an exemption from the country’s Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. The facility argued in court that matters of health and public safety lay in the provinces. They also argued that the federal government had no power to oversee or interfere in its operations. Both the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal upheld this point of view, and the facility carried on.
Opponents of the safe injection facilities use this Canadian example to point out the kind of legal conundrum that would be created by legalizing the facilities in the United States.
Should the Government Fight Drug Use Instead of Facilitate It?
Many conscientious individuals in the society are ill at ease with the notion of giving addicts the leeway to use illegal substances without legal repercussions. They feel that the government should not condone and facilitate activities that are a threat to the society. Funds spent on safe injection facilities could be utilized in a more effective way in treatment and rehabilitation, as opposed to helping addicts to continue using drugs.
Coming Soon to the United States
The current opioid epidemic is not showing any signs of easing up. There has been a sharp rise in incidences of heroin overdoses in the United States, particularly in New England. Many people are advocating for the establishment of safe injection sites to help stop the current epidemic. Seattle and San Francisco are already on board.
The ultimate goal around the issue of drug addiction should be to help the addict recover fully and to equip them with the means for sustainable recovery. For those who find merit in establishing safe injection sites, care must be taken to ensure that rules are created to safeguard the community against the harm portended by drug use.