This Is The First Safe-Injection Site For Heroin In The U.S.

Photographed by Megan Madden.
On Friday, officials in Seattle approved the first safe-injection site in the U.S., reports The Washington Post. The site, which will open for users of heroin and other illegal drugs, will provide clean needles, medical supervision, and easy access to drugs that reverse the effects of an overdose.

Supervised injection sites, which already exist in Europe, are essentially facilities in which people can do their drugs with clean equipment under professional supervision. Though the idea is controversial, some addiction experts believe that they can help manage the epidemic of drug overdoses.

"It's the natural next step in harm reduction," Joshua Lee, MD, an addiction expert at NYU Langone Medical Center, told us last year. "Wear a condom, use clean needles, and use your heroin in a safer way."

According to the CDC, 33,000 people died of opioid overdoses in 2015 alone, with 132 people dying of heroin overdoses in Seattle.

"We see this as a public health emergency," Jeff Duchin, the health officer for Seattle and King County told Washington Post. "Clearly the status quo isn’t working anywhere, and clearly we need to look at new tools."

"The real goal is not to open a day spa where people can come in and have a good time and use drugs, but to engage them in treatment," Duchin continued. "They inject in a place where there’s a health-care worker who can save their lives if they overdose."

The sites are not currently legal under federal law, though King County Sheriff John Urquhart says he is supportive of the idea, and that his deputies will not arrest anyone going to or coming from the sites. He warned, however, that the federal government "could camp out in front of the site and arrest anyone in possession."

Meanwhile, the New York City Council last year approved $100,000 to study opening up a safe injection site, while San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said that he is "open" to considering sites. In an ideal world, no one would be addicted to drugs, but supporters of safe injection sites say that techniques like these could keep people from dying of overdose.
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