Safe Injection?

As the opioid crisis continues to claim more lives in record numbers, lawmakers are readily searching for solutions to prevent further abuse of illicit drugs, and to prevent further addiction. Cities across the U.S. are considering to open supervised injection sites, or medically supervised facilities that allow people to consume the illegal drug with trained staff present. The medical staff on hand are administered naloxone, an opioid overdose antidote, and provide the user with methods for a safer injection, basic health care, and treatment referrals.

The consideration of supervised injection sites has sparked much debate. While some believe that these sites are an effective way to prevent drug overdoses, others only see them worsening conditions.

So, the real question is, who’s right?

The Current Sites

Around the world there are approximately 100 supervised injection sites, located mainly in Europe, Canada, and Australia. Typical drug users come in with their own drugs, and are given clean equipment with space to consume them. In 2014, a review of the 75 studies on these injection sites was released (read it here) and concluded that such places promoted less outdoor drug use, and did not appear to have any negative impact on drug use or crime.

However, Keith Humphreys, an addiction researcher and psychiatry professor at Stanford University, says the research has not effectively demonstrated an overall reduction in overdose deaths, and has concluded, “nobody should be looking at this literature making confident conclusions in either direction.”

Meaning the evidence is not concrete enough to determine whether the supervised injection sites are truly helpful or harmful.

Federal Opinions

Contrary to Mr. Humphreys conclusion, the United States Department of Justice Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein considered safe injection sites to be illegal under federal law, and the “people engaged in that activity remain vulnerable to civil and criminal enforcement.”

On Friday (2/22/19), a newly introduced bill in the House would prohibit safe injection sites in the state of Washington. The House Bill 2112 is sponsored by Representatives Kelly Chambers (R), Drew Stokesbary (R), Jim Walsh (R). The bill states a person may not establish, operate or maintain a safe injection site and reads:

“The state of Washington fully occupies and preempts (take action in order to prevent) the entire field of safe injection site regulation within the boundaries of the state, including the registration, licensing, possession, purchase, sale, acquisition, transfer, use, authorization, funding, or any other element relating to safe injection sites.”

It may seem, for now, the answers are still unclear about the future of such proposals in the U.S.

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