For five years, a secret supervised drug injection site has operated in the U.S., allowing drug users to inject more than 10,000 times in a sterile, protected environment, The Guardian reports. The illegal operation is modeled after legal sites in Canada and Europe, which seek to provide drug users with a place to get clean supplies, connect with social services and avoid overdosing in a dangerous place. A study of the underground site published in the New England Journal of Medicine online on Wednesday showed how lives could be saved if the U.S. were to sanction such facilities.
At the clandestine site, there were 33 opioid-involved overdoses that were reversed with the medication naloxone, said researchers from RTI International and the University of California, San Diego. “Not only were the 33 overdoses all saved, none of them required anyone calling 911 or being sent to a hospital,” said Alex Kral, an RTI International epidemiologist. “This is a big piece of this – we don’t need to overburden the emergency system with all these overdoses if people are inside, if they have trained people monitoring them.” An unnamed organization created the site in 2014 in response to the opioid overdose crisis. Though overdose death rates have dropped slightly in the past few years, they are still significantly higher than in previous decades, and nearly 70,000 people died from overdoses in 2018.