Thompson: Supervised injection sites are solution to opioid crisis

Madison Thompson

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

When someone hears about a supervised injection site for the first time, they might imagine people using drugs like meth and heroin having a convenient place to get high. This is simply not the case.

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In 2017, there were so many opioid related deaths that it lowered the average American life expectancy for the third year in a row. The reality is that we live in a world where opioids are easier to get than addiction treatment. Supervised injection sites are a viable part of the solution and their implementation should be a top priority for cities and states on the frontlines of the opioid crisis.

Supervised injection sites, also referred to as supervised consumption sites, are a safe alternative for people who use drugs, also known as PWUD. Aside from preventing overdose deaths, they are sterile environments that can limit the spread of injection-related diseases like Hepatitis C.

Part of the problem is accepting the fact that we can’t stop people from using drugs. At the very least, we can try to make it safer.

The opioid crisis is supposedly one of the top priorities for the Trump administration. The president’s plan is more punishment, fewer prescriptions and more treatment. This is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to perpetuate the war on drugs by increasing law enforcement presence in vulnerable communities.

Addiction is not a moral failure of the individual, but that of the government for not putting the lives of its citizens At the forefront of policy decisions.

Milena Cassamassima, a dual-degree Master of Public Health and Master of Social Work student at CSU, worked at a syringe access program for a year and a half and is an active supporter of supervised consumption sites.

“We need to start treating substance use through a medical lens,” Cassamassima said. “If someone chooses to eat fast food everyday and ends up with a heart condition, a hospital would not deny the person medical services because they chose to eat that food. We need to use that same line of thinking here.”

Some people might argue that supervised injection sites are only adding fuel to the fire that is opioid addiction, but we have to consider the alternative places of use for PWUD. Using drugs is already an unsafe behavior and using them in alleyways, public restrooms, abandoned buildings or cars makes the situation more dangerous.

Last summer in San Francisco, I was walking down one of the busiest streets right next to the Bay and there must’ve been 20 people lining the sidewalks preparing to do drugs. It’s not that we want to closet this population from sight, but rather providing a safe space that reduces overdose deaths and connects them to potential treatment options. 

According to Cassamassima, one of the most overlooked benefits of supervised consumption sites are that they are sometimes the only access to treatment and other resources for PWUD including housing, food, medical care, treatment for substance use disorder and other mental health care that they would not be getting otherwise.

Supervised sites are not the only solution. Ideally, they wouldn’t need to exist in a high capacity because people wouldn’t be using enough to warrant their existence. But until then, extensive research shows that they are a viable means to reduce overdose deaths, increase addiction treatment uptake and reduce social nuisance.

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Addiction is not a moral failure of the individual, but that of the government for not putting the lives of its citizens at the forefront of policy decisions.

Madison Thompson can be reached at letters@collegian.com or online @heyymadison.