In 100 places across Canada, Europe and Australia, supervised drug injection facilities allow visitors to inject heroin and other drugs in a clean, well-lighted space under the watchful eye of trained personnel who can rescue them if they overdose. Tens of thousands of drug users have visited the facilities, thousands have overdosed and, researchers say, no deaths have been reported, Stateline reports. Studies show that a substantial number of drug users who visit safe injection sites end up in treatment. Research also has shown that the facilities help contain hepatitis C and HIV infections and are a cost-effective way to save lives.
The U.S., with an overdose death rate that far exceeds that of any other country, has failed to open a single government-sanctioned facility. This year, that may change. Legislatures in California and Vermont are considering bills that would legalize and, in some cases, fund safe injection facilities. Seattle and surrounding King County have approved and budgeted for two such facilities. Advocates in Boston, Denver, New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco are pursuing similar initiatives. Political momentum for sanctioned injection sites has been building in the U.S. for three years. Groups including the American Medical Association and some state medical societies have backed efforts to launch pilot injection sites. Such efforts have been stymied by widespread stigma against drug users and concerns about federal drug law enforcement. As a result, drug users who do not have a safe place to live must furtively inject drugs in parking lots, stairwells, public bathrooms and hidden corners of public parks. With the increasing presence of the deadly synthetic drug fentanyl in the heroin supply, more users are dying.