[Excerpts] Published on December 2, 2021.
The scaling-up of overdose prevention sites (OPS) in Vancouver beginning in December 2016 was associated with a range of health benefits, including an increase in engagement in addiction treatment, as well decreases in public injection and syringe sharing.
The findings from researchers with the BC Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU) and University of British Columbia (UBC) were published today [December 2, 2021] in the peer-reviewed journal Addiction.
They found that following the establishment and expansion of OPS:
- Use of supervised consumption services immediately increased by more than 6% (from about 41% to 47%)
- Addiction treatment participation immediately increased by nearly 5% (from about 65% to 70%)
- Public injection immediately decreased by approximately 6% (from about 36% to 30%)
- Syringe sharing immediately decreased by nearly 3% (from about 5% to 2%)
The findings build upon evidence that has shown that OPS and supervised consumption sites can reduce fatal overdose, reduce other causes of premature death, reduce transmission of infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis C, support access to other health services, and improve the well-being of neighbourhoods by reducing public disorder.
“Overdose prevention sites are low-barrier settings that not only prevent overdose deaths, but also have the added benefit of bringing people into a supportive environment where they can get the help they need,” says lead author Dr. Mary Clare Kennedy, research scientist at the BCCSU. “Given the worsening of the drug poisoning crisis across the country, access to these services should be expanded.”
OPS provide access to a clean, safe space where drug consumption is witnessed and overdoses are responded to by teams of trained staff and peers.
“This research shows exactly what we are seeing on the frontline – that OPS save lives in so many ways,” says Sarah Blyth, a co-founder of the Overdose Prevention Society. “I hope this information helps guide government officials.”
The need for these services can be especially acute in more rural and remote communities, which lack many substance use services but still experience high rates of overdose.
- Study: “Health impacts of a scale-up of supervised injection services in a Canadian setting: an interrupted time series analysis”
- Study: “Supervised injection facilities reduce all causes of premature death among people who inject drugs, new research finds”
- Study: “Overdose deaths would be at least twice as high without emergency harm reduction and treatment response”
- Resource: Why SCS