Along with several major US cities—including New York, Philadelphia, Seattle, and San Francisco—Massachusetts is considering approval of “safe consumption sites” for drug users. The Massachusetts Harm Reduction Commission called for:
“pilot sites where people can consume illegal drugs in hygienic surroundings with trained staff who can revive those who overdose.”
Establishing safe injection sites is undoubtedly a useful step in stemming opioid overdoses. These sites expand individual freedom, and substantial evidence indicates that supervised injection sites reduce overdose death and infection rates while not increasing drug use or crime. Despite this, the federal government remains staunchly opposed to such sites, at the cost of human lives.
Safe injection sites are only necessary because of drug prohibition. If opioids were legal, quality control would be vastly better and accidental overdoses would be rare. Also, without FDA restrictions that make Naloxone available only via prescription (Naloxone is a drug that reverses overdoses), users could protect themselves against overdoses, reducing or obviating the need for safe injection sites.
Thus safe injection sites are good. But we should not lose site of the broader goal of full legal access to all drugs.
Research assistant Erin Partin co-authored this blog post.