Can Safe Injection Sites Calm the Opioid Crisis?

published on August 21, 2017 by Shannon Firth in MedPage Today

Support for establishing safe injection facilities (SIFs) — places where people can use their own illicit drugs under medical supervision — is growing in the United States, but the backlash against the model has been fierce.

Although some critics have noted that the overdose rate hasn’t changed much in Vancouver since Insite came along, looking at that number isn’t really “meaningful,” said Thomas Kerr, PhD, associate director of the BC Centre on Substance Use at the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, and a professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

The surge in the supply of fentanyl across the U.S. and Canada, a synthetic opioid roughly 100 times more potent than heroin, has hit Vancouver hard, Kerr said, which accounts for some of the rise in overdose deaths.

Also, Insite is a small facility serving only a fraction of the city’s substance users, and cannot be expected to save the lives of those 30 miles away, he continued.

The real question, according to Kerr, is “How much greater would [that rate] have been if there hadn’t been a supervised injection site?”

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