Safe injection sites are becoming a hot topic of discussion across the country. These sites provide clean supplies for people to use intravenous drugs. Many sites already exist worldwide and have recently been added here in the United States.
The first officially authorized safe injection site opened in New York City in November of 2021, with more on the horizon. Arizona recently set up legal, safe injection sites to help combat diseases associated with drug use and overdoses.1 We will look at the pros and cons of these sites and why addiction treatment is still the best choice to overcome addiction.
What is a Safe Injection Site?
Safe injection sites provide clean equipment (like needles) and a secure environment for IV drug users to inject themselves with drugs. These facilities do not offer or sell any illegal drugs. They intend to prevent people from using dirty supplies and spreading disease.
In Arizona, there has been a rise in injection drug use, leading to increases in overdose deaths and Hepatitis C.2 Between 2013 and 2014, Maricopa County saw a 27% increase in new Hepatitis C cases, with more than an estimated 75,000 people currently living with the disease in Arizona.2
Since very few pharmacies sell syringes, this leads to needle sharing. As a result, there is a greater risk of diseases such as Hepatitis C and HIV.
Besides providing clean supplies, medical staff is also on hand to oversee the injections at these sites. They have Naloxone and are trained in overdose prevention if they need to intervene. Staff members are also there to provide information on treatment centers available to get people the help they need. The idea is that giving people this information will lead them to seek treatment. Research shows that people who visit safe injection sites are five times more likely to enter drug treatment programs than those who don’t visit these types of places.2
New Safe Injection Sites in Arizona
The legalization of safe injection sites in Arizona is a big step in the effort to provide clean supplies.
Before these sites were recently approved, the Pima County Health Department and Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation provided needle exchange programs where people could get sterile needles. However, state law did not explicitly allow them.1
Due to the legalities surrounding the issue, volunteers often staffed many of these sites. Now that they are legal, there is more room for doctors, nurses, and counselors to participate. As of this writing, there is not a clear list of locations of safe injection sites in Arizona.
Benefits of Safe Injection Sites
As supporters and critics continue to discuss safe injection sites, those in favor cite benefits including:
Lower Death Rates
Safe injection sites can help reduce the possibility of overdose by providing clean, supervised places for intravenous drug use. As mentioned above, these sites are staffed with medical personnel who can intervene if necessary.
Reduction of Public Impact
There is less improper syringe disposal and less risk of public drug injection with safe places to use IV drugs.
Lower Disease Rates
Using clean needles can reduce the chances of someone contracting HIV or Hepatitis C. Also, the cost of a sterile needle is far less than treatment for either of these diseases.
Increase the Chance of Getting Help
Since many of these sites offer information about treatment programs, the likelihood of someone seeking help is greater.
Criticism of Safe Injection Sites
Despite the benefits cited by supporters of safe injection sites, there is criticism from those who don’t think these sites are helping the public or those using drugs. They point out the following:
Encourages Drug Use
IV drug use is a dangerous way to use drugs. By offering a safe place to do so, some believe it encourages people and potentially entices them to switch to this type of drug use.
May Increase Nearby Crime
Since people are bringing their drugs to these sites, some people are concerned that it will increase drug-related crime in nearby neighborhoods.
Creates Legal Questions
Some people wonder what type of legal message these sites send. They may create difficulty in enforcing laws surrounding drugs and drug use.
Addiction Treatment at Desert Cove Recovery
While providing safe injection sites may help people reduce the harm they can cause themselves, drug treatment is still necessary to overcome a substance use disorder. At Desert Cove Recovery, we offer people customized treatment plans to help them overcome their addiction and learn to live a sober life.
Call us today or reach out to us online to learn more about how we can help you or a loved one.
Sources: https://www.azpm.org/s/87081-arizona-legalized-clean-need-exchange-sites/  https://sitdaz.org/