RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — A new study led by RTI International, a nonprofit research institute, the University of California San Diego and the University of California San Francisco, found that people who inject drugs disposed significantly fewer syringes in public places, including streets, sidewalks, parks, or parking lots, when using unsanctioned safe consumption sites than when not using the sites. The study helps allay concerns that implementing safe consumption sites in the U.S. would lead to increases in improperly disposed syringes.
“While people often oppose these sites due to concerns about used syringes left in public settings, this study shows these unsanctioned safe consumption sites can significantly reduce the number of improperly disposed syringes,” said Alex Kral, Ph.D., an epidemiologist at RTI and lead author on the study. “Communities with high prevalence of health complications related to drug use should implement these evidence-based sites as scientific findings like this study reinforce that the sites offer more benefits than negative findings in the neighborhoods in which they are placed.”
The study is the first cohort study evaluating the impact of a safe consumption site in the U.S. and used rigorous epidemiological and statistical methods. Along with similar results from other countries, it helps allay concerns about the presence of safe consumption sites in communities.
Safe consumption sites, also known as safe injection facilities, drug consumption rooms, and overdose prevention programs, exist in a dozen countries and are places where people can bring pre-obtained drugs and use them in an environment that is monitored by a health care worker. One the core functions of all safe consumption sites is that they provide and safely dispose of all drug use equipment onsite, which means that for people who inject drugs at the site, all syringes are disposed of properly through biohazardous waste containers.
The study was supported by Arnold Ventures and was published in the peer-reviewed journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.