Massachusetts Physicians Pushing For Safe Injection Sites
In an effort to curb the opioid addiction and overdose epidemic, doctors in Massachusetts are urging the state to implement safe injection sites. Indeed, Massachusetts Medical Society members recently voted overwhelmingly (193-21) in favor of such facilities.
Massachusetts policymakers and health care providers are no strangers to this issue, and currently, there is a proposed bill that would permit safe injection sites to be implemented in the state.
The legislation, which is sponsored by William Brownsberger (D-Belmont), is an amendment to an existing law and would allow for “a space for people who use drugs to consume pre-obtained drugs under the supervision of healthcare professionals.”
Trained providers would be able to legally provide such services as needle exchange, overdose prevention, and drug treatment referrals.
Users would be able to inject under supervised conditions, and trained staff would have the overdose-reversal drug naloxone readily available to administer in life-threatening situations.
With highly potent drugs such as fentanyl showing up heroin, this approach could save untold lives.
Brownsberger told DigBoston:
“People are dying across the state. We need to be open to whatever might be helpful to protect people from the worst consequences of their addictions.”
Earlier in 2017, Seattle became the first city in the U.S. To permit safe injection sites and seeks to open two sites in the next year. However, a Washington state senator recently introduced legislation that would ban the sites, and sites are not technically legal due to a provision of the Controlled Substances Act that deems it illegal to operate a site in which drugs are being used.
Currently, nine countries permit these sites, including Canada, and maintain that they reduce the prevalence of disease and overdoses, and also increase the number of people who enter treatment.
Advocates point to success in Portugal, which decriminalized drugs in 2001. They began reallocating money spend on drug crimes to clinics, injection sites, and other health-related issues. As a result, the rate of drug use in Portugal dropped from 45% to below 30% in 11 years – a fall that equates to a decrease from nearly 1-in-2 to less than 1-in-3.
Detractors of the idea cite reasons such as these facilities encourage more drug use and do not address the overall crisis. Moreover, use is somewhat normalized, although the general idea is to get people into treatment.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology