A new study on safe consumption spaces has found that a majority of injection drug users not only support but also would be willing to use the harm reduction facilities if opened up across the country, a recent press release from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health reports.
The study, published this month in the Journal of Urban Health, surveyed 326 opioid users in Baltimore, Boston and Providence about their views on safe injection sites—places where people who use heroin, fentanyl and other opioids can access sterile syringes and medical support while they inject. Such sanctioned venues are not legal in the United States but have been set up and evaluated in countries such as Canada and Australia, where studies show they help significantly reduce the risk of HIV, hepatitis C virus (HCV) and hepatitis B virus (HBV) transmission as well as cut down on overdoses and public drug use.
Ultimately, the study found that overall, 77% of participants reported a willingness to use safe consumption spaces. Willingness to use safe consumption spaces among people who relied on public spaces to use drugs, such as streets, parks and abandoned buildings was even higher, at 84%.
“This is important because often the voices of people who use drugs are not always included in policy debates or in the implementation of public health interventions,” said lead study author Ju Nyeong Park, PhD, MHS, an assistant scientist in the Department of Health, Behavior and Society at the Bloomberg School.
The study also helped paint a picture of the U.S. opioid crisis in practice. Of those who reported using opioids nonmedically over the past 30 days in each of the three cities, almost 70% were homeless, and 60% reported habitually using drugs in semipublic spaces. More than one third of study participants reported having experienced an overdose in the past six months. About 73% reported recent use of a drug they suspected contained fentanyl—the highly potent synthetic opioid currently infiltrating the U.S. drug supply with deadly effects.
When asked what might keep them from using a safe consumption space, 38% said fear of arrest, and 36% cited privacy concerns.
Overall, researchers say opioid users’ willingness to use safe injection sites suggests that such facilities would provide a safer and more viable alternative to using drugs on the streets.
To learn more about safe injection facilities and harm reduction, click here.