Do safe-injection sites offer proven benefits to those facing addiction?

published on April 5, 2018 by Michaela Winberg in BILLYPENN

Pennsylvania’s attorney general is not a fan of Phily’s proposed CUES.

Full Statement

“I guess while some studies may offer some benefit to those facing addiction, I don’t think there is clear evidence, and I am focused less on creating pathways to safe-injection sites and more on creating pathways to effective treatment to those who are in need.”

Our Analysis

On Jan. 23, Philadelphia officially announced it would “actively encourage” the creation of a a comprehensive user engagement site (also known as a safe-injection site). Safe-injection sites, which are medically supervised spaces where people can use drugs, currently exist in Canada and at least nine other countries around the world.

What is the data?

Dr. Thomas Kerr, the associate director of the British Columbia Centre on Substance Use, has personally conducted data on Vancouver’s safe-injection site. He believes there are about 40 peer-reviewed studies of similar sites around the world, all of which state their effectiveness.

“Not only is the evidence there,” Kerr told PolitiFact PA, “but it’s of a remarkably high quality.”

According to a study published by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, data show safe-injection sites offer various benefits to communities dealing with addiction. A major one is a reduction in fatal overdoses. A separate study conducted at Vancouver’s safe-injection site estimated that out of 453 potentially fatal overdoses there between March 2004 and July 2008, between eight and 51 people could have died if the ODs had occurred outside the facility.

Another reported benefit is increased enrollment in detox. A report from the Society for the Study of Addiction found that among 1,031 injection drug users surveyed, there was a “statistically significant increase in the uptake of detoxification services” the year after Vancouver’s safe-injection site opened.

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