Fact or Fiction: A Federal Judge Approved the U.S.’ First Supervised Injection Site

This is a fact!

In a surprise ruling, federal judge Gerald McHugh, sitting in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, ruled in October 2019 that a nonprofit organization’s plan to allow people to bring in their own drugs (both legal and illegal) and use them in a facility staffed with medical personnel to help reduce fatal overdoses does not violate the Controlled Substances Act. The Judge stated, “The ultimate goal of Safehouse’s proposed operation is to reduce drug use, not facilitate it.”

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For fans of the HBO show The Wire, it may remind you of “Hamsterdam” – drug-tolerant “free zones” established by officials in Baltimore that helped clear drug dealing off residential street corners.

According to the Safehouse organization’s president, Philadelphia loses about three people a day to opioid overdoses. Across the nation, more than 68,000 people died of overdoses last year, and most of the deaths involved opioids.

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Justice Department prosecutors had sued to block the site, calling the proposal “in-your-face illegal activity.” The federal Controlled Substances Act establishes federal U.S. drug policy under which the manufacture, importation, possession, use, and distribution of certain substances is regulated.

Schedule I substances include heroin, LSD, marijuana, MDMA aka ecstasy, and GHB.

Schedule II substances include cocaine, amphetamine drugs, and most opioids like fentanyl.

Schedule III substances include many steroids.

Schedule IV substances include many anxiety medications like Valium and Xanax.

Schedule V substances include cough syrup and antidiarrheal medicines.

While there are so far no legal, supervised injection sites in the United States, they exist in countries like Canada, Australia and some European countries.

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Supporters of supervised injection sites claim they can reduce fatal overdoses, prevent the spread of infectious diseases, and move more people into treatment. A 2014 study concluded such places promote safer injection conditions, reduce overdoses and increase access to health services. Supervised injection sites were also associated with less outdoor drug use, and they did not appear to have any negative impacts on crime or drug use.

What do you think? Do supervised injection sites encourage drug use and bring crime to nearby  communities? Or should they be trialed to help reduce overdose deaths, keep dirty needles out of the streets, and help get more addicts into treatment?

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