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How supervised drug consumption sites could help solve the opioid crisis

A man volunteers for Prevention Point Philadelphia and Step Up to the Plate in the Kensington neighborhood in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
A man volunteers for Prevention Point Philadelphia and Step Up to the Plate in the Kensington neighborhood in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

More than one million people have died of overdoses in the U.S. since 1999.

That rate has increased in the age of COVID-19. Recent estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show more than 100,000 overdose deaths inthe 12-month span ending in April 2021 — a record high for one year. 

Then two months ago, New York City opened the United States’ first overdose prevention centers. They’re sites where people can safely use drugs under the supervision of people trained to spot and reverse overdoses. 

These centers are part of a broader strategy of harm reduction, a set of strategies designed to minimize the negative effects of drug use.While the harm reduction model has been embraced by the Biden Administration, they haven’t endorsed supervised consumption sites. 

But is this something the Biden Administration is watching as a possible approach to help reduce the growing number of overdose deaths? “Absolutely,” Dr. Rahul Gupta, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, told 1A.“It’s critical for us to be looking at the emerging harm reduction practices and I’m committed to looking at the research as well as the clinical effectiveness of these practices in real-world settings.”

Similar supervised use sites are already being considered in Seattle, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. 

 What is the philosophy of harm reduction? And what does it mean to create a safe drug consumption site?

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