New York City Opens Groundbreaking Safe Injection Sites
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Safe injection sites have been the source of serious controversy and concern throughout the last few years. While countries around the world have offered various iterations of safe injection sites since the early 1970s, they’ve only recently made their way into widespread public knowledge.
The newly opened safe injection site in New York added the United States to the list of countries that offer legal, sanctioned safe injection sites. After a near successful attempt to open a safe injection site in Philadelphia was shut down in February 2020, New York’s site is a welcome relief for those who support these harm reduction efforts.
Safe injection sites are not a straightforward solution to substance abuse, though. While they aim to combat the accelerating overdose rates in the United States, they are only one of many options. These facilities come with a range of both positive and negative consequences.
What does New York City hope to accomplish with its new safe injection sites? How will they affect those struggling with substance abuse as well as the city as a whole? And are there more effective alternatives in New York City to treat substance use disorder?
What is a Safe Injection Site?
Safe injection sites are facilities where people who use illicit drugs can do so legally under medical supervision. While facilities do not provide the substances themselves, they do offer clean supplies to use them, such as sterile hypodermic needles. Staff at these sites monitor people during use and administer overdose-reversing treatment when necessary.
Safe injection sites are known by a few different names including:
- Overdose prevention centers
- Supervised injection sites
- Medically-supervised injection centers
- Supervised consumption sites
- Fix rooms
- Shooting galleries
These sites don’t only exist to supervise intravenous drug use, though. Overdose prevention centers exist primarily to fight drug addiction. They are designed to keep those who use illicit drugs alive long enough to reach the point that they’re ready to get help. These facilities are ready to connect people with life-saving addiction treatment programs the moment they want to stop.
The Detrimental Impact of Drug Addiction
Rates of drug abuse, substance use disorder, and drug overdoses have grown steadily in the United States over the past few decades. Opioids, including prescription opioids, heroin, and fentanyl, have been responsible for the astronomical increase in fatal overdoses since 2013.
A grim report from the CDC estimates that more than 100,000 people in the U.S. lost their lives to drug overdoses between April 2020 and April 2021. This is the first time that fatal overdoses have claimed more than 100,000 lives in a single year. When you consider the previous data showing almost 500,000 lives lost to overdoses between 1999 and 2019, this past year’s statistics become even more sobering.
The numbers in New York City are no better. More than 2,000 people died from a drug overdose in New York City in 2020. 48 per 100,000 residents in the Bronx lost their lives to an overdose. In Staten Island, drugs claimed the lives of 37 people per 100,000. As of November, 198 residents in New York City overdosed this year, with 72 of those ending fatally.