With heroin abuse continually on the rise, local and state governments have been attempting to come up with solutions to combat this crisis. One of the proposed ideas, which has been met with great controversy, is safe injection sites where those addicted and struggling with heroin abuse can safely use under supervision. The question that remains at the forefront of everyone’s mind is will these safe injection sites ultimately help reduce heroin abuse?
These safe injection sites are sites that are a clean place with clean needles and are under medical supervision. In January of this year, Philadelphia became the first U.S. city to offer a safe injection site. While more cities are attempting to follow suit, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) still has qualms and concerns regarding safe injection sites. DEA spokeswomen Katherine Pfaff has said that “safe injection sites and heroin-maintenance programs don’t fit” the criteria for the evidence-based programs that the U.S. drug policy supports. She further states that “any facilitation of illicit drug use is considered a violation of the Controlled Substances Act.”
Most of the lawmakers that are deciding to allow for safe injection sites are doing so under a strategy known as “harm reduction.” These facilities allow the users to inject substances such as heroin while being supervised by medical professionals. These medical professionals are trained in how to administer naloxone, which is a drug that counteracts an opioid overdose. In addition to medical supervision, social workers are also on site to help those using confront their addictions if the user should choose to do so.
With safe injection sites available, studies have shown that users are less likely to risk transmitting any diseases because they have access to clean needles. The number of overdose deaths decreased and more users began to pursue treatment.
The idea behind approving these sites is the same reasoning behind approving marijuana at a state level. Even though there is a federal blanket law, states have been able to approve marijuana use at least at a medical use level.
Though it is a politically charged issue, safe injection sites are going to be something that may save many lives in the years to come. The only way to find out is if these are allowed to come to fruition.