Are supervised injection sites a good idea?

30 May 2018 | 01:27

BY ERIKA NORTON
Opioid addiction and overdose deaths have continued to increase nationwide, leading some government officials to consider new approaches to combat the epidemic, including here in New York.
Earlier this month, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled a plan to open four safe injection centers where drug users can use opioids under supervision of medical professionals who can intervene if the person overdoses and can connect them to treatment programs.
The goal of these sites is to reduce the adverse health, social and economic effects of drug use without requiring abstinence from drug use, but helping to steer users into treatment.
Supervised injection sites have been considered successful in a number of cities in Canada, and are being considered in major U.S. cities such as San Francisco, Philadelphia and Seattle. However, there are a number of hurdles, both legal and in the arena of public opinion, that will need to be crossed before these facilities come to the states, including New York City.
In Canada, supervised injection sites are explicitly exempt from prosecution under federal drug laws. While in the U.S., a provision of the federal Controlled Substances Act makes it illegal to operate facilities where drugs are used. Possession of heroin is also illegal.
Other government officials are worried this approach would do more to increase the problem. Last year, Vermont U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan said in a statement that safe injection sites “would encourage and normalize heroin use, thereby increasing demand for opiates and, by extension, risk of overdose and overdose deaths.”
Problem in New JerseyBut with the opioid epidemic getting worse, Mayor de Blasio says supervised injection sites will help.
“What's clear to me is this will save lives,” he said earlier this month. “We will see a number of people who would otherwise have died of an overdose be in a setting where they can be saved.”
In New Jersey, according to a new report, 2,221 people died from drug overdoses in 2016, up 40 percent from the year before. The majority of victims had heroin or fentanyl in their systems.
In Sussex County, there were 38 overdose deaths due to heroin, prescription meds and other drugs last year.
What do you think? Are you in favor of supervised injection sites?