With an eye on combating the problem of substance abuse and overdose, Seattle officials recently approved two “safe injection facilities” for illegal drug users. The sites, the first of their kind in the United States, would offer access to medical supervision, clean needles and drugs like Naloxone that can help reverse overdoses.
The initiative, meant for intravenous drug users, took shape after recommendations from the King County Heroin and Prescription Opiate Addiction Task Force.
“Like many places across our nation, Seattle and King County are experiencing an epidemic of heroin and prescription opiate use unlike any we’ve seen before,” said Seattle Mayor Ed Murray in a statement. “Over the last two years, the Seattle Fire Department responded to more than 3,700 incidents related to drug overdoses, as this crisis has affected every community in our city,” he added.
Initiative gets mixed response
Other cities like Boston, New York and San Francisco are also exploring similar measures. However, the decision by Seattle officials is facing mixed responses. Not everyone is happy with the move. The opponents are of the view that the sites will encourage illegal drug use but the supporters say they can help people get the needed treatment.
Siding with the opponents, State Sen. Mark Miloscia, a Republican from the Federal Way, introduced a bill in January that would ban such sites in Washington. “We must stop the push for decriminalization of drugs. Standing idly by while addicts abuse illegal drugs is not compassionate, and it does not solve the problem,” Miloscia said in a statement.
According to the University of Washington’s Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute, King County reported 132 overdose deaths in 2015. On the national level, more than 33,000 opioid overdose deaths were reported in 2015 and nearly half of them were caused by prescription opioids, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
North America’s only supervised use site appears to have positive effect
Demarcating areas where people dependent on substances can use drugs is not a new idea. According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, the first such facility opened in Bern, Switzerland in 1986. While the first such center in North America, Insite, opened in Vancouver, Canada in 2003.
As per a study published in the Lancet in 2011, Insite helped reduce fatal drug overdoses by 35 percent in a nearby neighborhood that had one of the highest drug overdose rates in Canada. Another report, published in the British Columbia Medical Journal in 2008, credited InSite with playing a “small part” in improvements seen in Downtown Eastside where the facility is located.
However, according to the British Columbia Coroners Service, drug overdose deaths climbed sharply in the province, though the Service stated that no deaths occurred at “supervised consumption or drug overdose prevention sites.”
A report by the Service stated that 914 overdose deaths occurred in the province in 2016, a 79 percent increase from 2015. In December 2016, 11 people in British Columbia (BC) fatally overdosed over a two-day period, the highest in a month.
Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe said the increase in the death rate could be attributed to the presence of synthetic drug fentanyl, which is illegally sold on the streets. To rein in the problem, the Vancouver Police Department, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and several other BC agencies formed https://knowyoursource.ca, a site that warns drug users of the dangers of fentanyl.
No substitute for treatment
Supervised sites may benefit those currently addicted to opioids but they don’t help people get off drugs. Sovereign Health’s treatment facilities in California and throughout the nation provide effective, research-backed treatment for opioid addiction and mental illnesses. Our facilities also provide clients a safe and comfortable environment to work on their challenges and discover a healthy life free from addiction. Contact our 24/7 helpline for more information.
About the author
Brian Moore is a staff writer and graphic designer for Sovereign Health. A 20-year veteran of the newspaper industry, he writes articles and creates graphics across Sovereign’s portfolio of marketing and content products. Brian enjoys music, bicycling and playing the tuba, which he’s done with varying degrees of success for over 25 years. For more information and other inquiries about this media, contact the author and designer at firstname.lastname@example.org.