How Do Safe Injection Sites Work?

Use of intravenous drugs is associated with grave risks. Did you know that over 125 Americans die daily from drug overdose? Some countries have resorted to safe injection sites as a way of controlling or slowing down the death rate of opioid addiction, which has risen to 400,000 since 2010.

What Is A Safe Injection Site?

An opioid addiction can lead to unsafe injections in unsafe places, so intravenous drug use in parks, tunnels, and public restrooms is risky.

Safe injection sites respond to this risk by giving control to the user regarding their choice of location. Alternate names for a safe injection site is overdose prevention center, supervised injection site, or drug consumption room. A clinician is always ready to step in in the event of an overdose, ensuring a user is safe while injecting their drug of choice.

Some of the services provided by a safe injection site are:

  • Primary care: Various services are offered at some safe injection sites, including hepatitis tests, pregnancy tests, HIV/AIDS tests, and sick visits. 
  • Lifesaving support: In the event of an overdose, clinicians are well-equipped with supplies.
  • Secure environment: The possession of illicit drugs on the premises of legally-sanctioned safe injection facilities is not punishable by law.
  • Safe supplies: This can include sterile syringes, filters, tourniquets and cookers. 
  • Withdrawal management: To ensure a seamless detox experience, users visiting safe injection sites have access to clinician-monitored facilities and are paired with counselors at every step of the process.

What Is The Purpose Of A Safe Injection Site?

How Do Safe Injection Sites Work?

A safe injection site is primarily based on the principle of harm reduction. Harm reduction is a set of strategies and ideas that intend to mitigate the negative impacts and consequences.

Because of harm reduction initiatives, providing medical help at a safe injection site is believed to prevent more overdoses and reach more IV users who need help. For this reason, those who favor safe or supervised injection sites believe they can be a bridge to recovery.

It is likely that safe injection sites will pave the way to reduce harm and provide IV users with a safe, accepting space and the knowledge that help is available as needle exchange programs gain a wider acceptance in the United States. 

Providing Long-Term & Meaningful Help to People And Communities

Although some people argue that safe injection sites encourage open drug use, it has been proven that these facilities can save lives and help addicts recover.  

  • Visitors to safe injection sites form relationships with staff members. This can be extremely helpful for people who are trying to get into a treatment program or detox center since staffers at these facilities are in the perfect position to provide the information that users need when they are ready for help. 
  • In cities with safe injection sites, healthcare costs decline and the use of recovery facilities and addiction programs increases. 
  • As a result of safe injection sites, drug addiction is de-stigmatized as a chronic disease that requires long-term treatment.

Do Legal Safe Injection Sites Exist In The United States?

The United States recently opened their first safe injection site in Manhattan at the end of November 2021, where it reportedly reversed two potential overdoses on the first day of operation. As with the legalization of marijuana, individual states have the power to permit legalization of such facilities at their discretion. Philadelphia, for example, has been considering opening its own safe injection site since 2018 but the proposal was struck down by a judge three years later.

Additional Initiatives To Reduce Harm

How Do Safe Injection Sites Work?

In spite of only one safe injection site operating legally in the U.S., many cities throughout the country have created needle or syringe exchange programs to provide sterile supplies and properly dispose of used needles. Approximately 320 needle exchange programs exist in 39 states, but unlike safe injection sites, these programs cannot provide onsite staff to supervise usage. 

In late 2020 Oregon became the first state to decriminalize hard drugs. With the passage of a ballot measure, personal use of drugs such as heroin, methamphetamine, LSD, oxycodone, and others will no longer be criminally charged. 

A person who is in possession of small amounts of drugs can now choose between paying a fine or attending addiction recovery centers instead of going to trial and possibly facing jail time. Oregon collects millions of dollars in tax revenue from its legalized and regulated marijuana industry to fund these centers. 

A reduction in felony convictions as a result of the measure will allegedly lead to fewer obstacles such as not being able to get employment or find housing – but will ultimately also save lives.

While Oregon may be the first state to decriminalize hard drugs, other countries have already taken this step. Portugal decriminalized hard drugs in 2000 and saw no drug use increase. Instead, drug overdose deaths dropped while the number of people seeking treatment for drug addictions went up.

Get The Addiction Treatment You Deserve In Orange County

Although decriminalizing drugs, establishing safe injection sites, and introducing needle exchange programs may seem counterintuitive, each serves to delegitimize drug use. By removing the shame associated with substance use, we can ensure that those living with addiction seek help or, at the very least, are able to safely consume.If you or someone you love is experiencing addiction, please contact our detox center in San Juan Capistrano or give us a call at (949) 534-0315. While not a safe injection site, we will make sure you get the immediate assistance and support you need.