The Dichotomy of a Supervised Injecting Facility

Supervised injecting facilities (SIFs) are designated and sanctioned spaces where injection drug users come and inject themselves under medical supervision. Several studies have revealed that SIFs are associated with decreased overdose mortality rate and HIV risk behaviors among adults.

“People need to feel comfortable using,” Darwin Fisher, manager of InSite, a supervised injection facility in Vancouver, Canada, told CNN. “It’s about helping people who have been marginalized to the alleys and bring them into the light of healthcare,” he further stated in support of SIFs.

As of today, the world is divided on the utilitarian aspect of an SIF. While there are vociferous supporters of the concept, there are also people, former addicts and others who do not approve of this highly combustible arrangement.

What the supporters have to say

Daniel Raymond, policy director at the New York City–based Harm Reduction Coalition, sees a lot of good in such a setup. “A lot of people are homeless or unstably housed, and when people are injecting in public it tends to be riskier,” Raymond was quoted by The Marshall Project as saying. “They tend to rush because they don’t want to be seen. This increases risk for overdose, for spreading infections. There’s logic to saying, if you’re at risk of overdose, let’s at least be inside where someone can respond.”

Speaking to radio station WBUR about a proposed SIF in Boston, Dr. Jessie Gaeta, chief medical officer of the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, reportedly said that no one will actually use drugs in the room. “Rather, it’s for people who are already high and “need a safe place to be that’s not a street corner,” she said.

An SIF may not function like a natural detox center in California or elsewhere, but will surely supervise addicts injecting themselves inside the facility.

Several studies have confirmed that a supervised injecting facility can substantially cull down incidences of overdose deaths and prevent the spread of HIV. Though it cannot be compared to the detox centers in California, SIFs can also act as a potential motivator for drug users to seek treatment. Moreover, it has been observed that with a supervised injecting center, street crimes and discarding of syringes in public places have gone down significantly.

A study conducted by the British Columbia Center for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BC-CfE), has revealed that a lot of positive changes have been brought about by InSite since it opened in 2003. Almost 30 percent of those using the injecting rooms felt inclined to go for detox and 70 percent of them refrained from sharing needles amongst themselves.

Boston mayor Marty Walsh is also reported to be in favor for such a facility and is keen to try anything when it comes to addiction and active using. Matt Curtis, policy director of VOCAL New York, also voiced his support in favor of SIFs saying, “I totally understand how that’s going to seem pretty controversial to some people. But it’s also very important.”

Shortfalls of SIFs

Some former addicts, however, feel that such a practice would only provide a leeway for drug abusers and shove them further into the gorge. “You’re going to have people go in and say, I can do this much in front of medical personnel and I was fine. I didn’t overdose,” says one former addict. “They’re going to go out, they’re going to get that bad batch, they’re gonna overdose”.

Besides, another colossal issue the supervised injecting facilities would face is that dealers will use these facilities as a lucrative marketplace swarmed by an endless clientele much without the prying eyes of the law enforcing agencies. However, with strict vigilance and noble intentions, it doesn’t hurt to help addicts overcome addiction and prevent any possible fatal overdose.

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