A safe haven where drug users inject themselves with heroin and other drugs has been quietly operating in the U.S. for the past three years, the Associated Press reports. None was known to exist in the U.S. until the disclosure in a medical journal, although several states and cities are pushing to establish so-called supervised injection sites where users can shoot up under the care of trained staff who can treat an overdose if necessary. Two researchers said they’ve been evaluating an underground safe place that opened in 2014. As a condition of their research, they didn’t disclose the location of the facility — which is unsanctioned and potentially illegal — or the social service agency running it.
The researchers offered little data, and their main finding was that no one died while injecting at the safe place. There were two overdoses on site, which were reversed by staff members using the overdose medication naloxone. The underground safe haven is open between four and six hours a day, five days a week, said Alex Kral, a San Francisco-based researcher with RTI International, and Peter Davidson of the University of California, San Diego. Their report was published online in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Advocates and some politicians have called for government-sanctioned injection sites as the U.S. grapples with the opioid epidemic. More than 52,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2015, fueled by soaring abuse of heroin and prescription painkillers. Government statistics for the first nine months of last year show overdose death rates continuing to spiral. President Trump tweeted today that he will hold a “major briefing” on the nation’s opioid crisis. Injection sites are legal in countries including Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Switzerland.