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The US Is About to Get Its First Legal Safe Injection Site
news  |  Jan 14, 2020

The US Is About to Get Its First Legal Safe Injection Site

Providing a safe space for opioid users to shoot-up is incredibly controversial, but research indicates that it not only saves lives — it helps patients seek help, too.

Providing a safe space for opioid users to shoot-up is incredibly controversial, but research indicates that it not only saves lives — it helps patients seek help, too.

By all objective measures, the opioid crisis isn’t ending any time soon. In fact, experts predict it will get worse in the coming years. Obviously, treating opioid addiction as a crime isn’t helping anyone, and politicians, law enforcement, and healthcare workers are getting desperate to find a solution.

One of those solutions could be safe injection sites, otherwise known as supervised injection facilities (SIF). SIFs are essentially medical shelters where opioid addicted individuals can shoot up without fear of reprisal. 

SIFs are staffed by certified healthcare professionals who provide clean syringes and needles, and who can immediately respond with life-saving drugs, like Narcan, in the event of an overdose. Additionally, SIFs provide resources for rehabilitation and treatment, so each time an addicted individual comes in, they’re given an opportunity to get clean, too.

According to Marijuana Moment, 140 SIFs legally operate around the world, with most facilities located in Canada, Europe, and Australia. No SIFs are located in the US, though some cities are trying to change that. Since heroin is a Schedule I drug, and all non-pharmaceutical uses of opioids are outlawed, American legislators have traditionally blocked any attempts to open SIFs in the US. Opponents of SIFs claim that these facilities encourage dangerous drug use and will attract addicted people to tolerant areas rather than help them.

Last week, a court in Philadelphia ruled in favor of Safehouse, an organization that is opening the US’s first legal SIF. According to the ruling, SIFs do not violate federal laws, though Safehouse requested a final ruling from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. The final ruling is expected to be delivered on January 17.

“The ultimate goal of Safehouse’s proposed operation is to reduce drug use, not facilitate it, and accordingly, [the statute] does not prohibit Safehouse’s proposed conduct,” US District Judge Gerald McHugh wrote in October.

Philadelphia may soon break revolutionary ground for curbing America’s opioid epidemic. A November study from Canada shows that addicted people who visit SIFs are less likely to die than those who don’t. 

“Existing modeling and simulation studies indicate that SIFs avert numerous overdose deaths per year,” the Canadian researchers wrote. “Moreover, past research relying on aggregate data has demonstrated the role of SIFs in reducing local population-based rates of fatal overdose.”

Ironically, the best way to stop the opioid epidemic may start with allowing addicted patients to freely shoot-up, first. 

Follow Randy Robinson on Twitter

randyrobinson

Based in Denver, Randy studied cannabinoid science while getting a degree in molecular biology at the University of Colorado. When not writing about cannabis, science, politics, or LGBT issues, they can be found exploring nature somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. Catch Randy on Twitter and Instagram @randieseljay

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