Thursday, July 9, 2020

Safe injection sites: surreptitious harm reduction, in the NEJM

When healthcare interventions must be conducted secretly, it's likely that something is very wrong with the law.

A letter in the New England Journal of Medicine brings us up to date on safe injection sites, to combat deaths from drug overdoses.

by Alex H. Kral, Ph.D., Barrot H. Lambdin, Ph.D., Lynn D. Wenger, M.S.W., M.P.H., and 
Pete J. Davidson, Ph.D.    July 8, 2020

"Nearly 70,000 people in the United States die each year from a drug overdose.1 Opioid-involved overdose deaths may be preventable by the timely administration of naloxone. Eleven countries have responded to health concerns regarding people who use drugs by opening sanctioned safe consumption sites; however, no such sites exist yet in the United States. Safe consumption sites provide a space for people to bring preobtained drugs and use them with sterile supplies under clean conditions and with safe disposal of used drug equipment. These sites provide monitoring by staff equipped and trained in the use of naloxone to reverse overdose. Most sanctioned sites can also provide related services, including voluntary screening for infectious diseases, peer counseling, wound care, and referral to other social and medical services, such as substance use treatment. 
"In September 2014, in response to a local opioid overdose crisis, an organization in an undisclosed U.S. city opened an unsanctioned safe consumption site

"Although this evaluation was limited to one city and one site that is unsanctioned, and therefore the findings cannot be generalized, our results suggest that implementing sanctioned safe consumption sites in the United States could reduce mortality from opioid-involved overdose. Sanctioning sites could allow persons to link to other medical and social services, including treatment for substance use, and facilitate rigorous evaluation of their implementation and effect on reducing problems such as public injection of drugs and improperly discarded syringes."

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