Secret US Safe Injection Site Saved Dozens of Lives

Researcher say clandestine site reversed 33 overdoses
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 9, 2020 8:02 AM CDT
Secret US Safe Injection Site Saved Dozens of Lives
Linda Montel shows off supplies on a check in desk at Safer Inside, a realistic model of a safe injection site in San Francisco.   (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

For years, addicts have been injecting themselves with drugs at a secret location in an undisclosed US city. Researchers say the clandestine safe injection site has saved dozens of lives and has probably prevented many HIV and hepatitis C infections. The site, based on legal ones in Europe and Canada, was set up in September 2014 by an organization in response to a local opioid overdose crisis, the Guardian reports. The facility, which provided users with sterile equipment, trained its staff on how to intervene during an overdose. Over the course of 10,514 injections in 5 years, some 33 overdoses were reversed with naloxone, researchers say. There were no deaths, and none of the users needed to be taken to a hospital.

The facility capped the number of eligible users at 60. They had to be invited, bring their own drugs, and be over 18. There are currently no legally sanctioned safe injection sites in the US. In their study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the researchers say legal sites could help reduce the almost 70,000 overdose deaths in the US each year. "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," they wrote. The researchers say such sites could also help identify trends in drug use and clue staff in on bad batches of drugs, preventing mass overdose events. (More drug use stories.)

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