SEATTLE — As local communities consider safe injection sites for drug addicts, an eye-opening new study casts doubt on whether they really make a difference in the opioid crisis.
People can use drugs like heroin under medical supervision at those sites. The goal is to save lives and prevent the spread of disease.
KIRO7 was the first to show you Vancouver's safe injection site called "InSite" in 2016. Every day, people line up outside and inject heroin on the street while waiting to get in.
Right now King County is working to figure out where to put two safe injection sites. But a new study puts into question whether they really save lives.
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Research just published in the "International Journal of Drug Policy" says, "Medically supervised safe injection centers were found to have no effect on overdose mortality or syringe/equipment sharing."
The study says, "There is a substantial body of research on the effectiveness of Medically Supervised Injection Centres. Studies have been conducted in Australia, Canada, Denmark, and Spain. However, there have been few attempts to conduct a quantitative analysis of these studies to determine the impact of the body of research as a whole."
The researchers went through 40 studies to aggregate and analyze, but determined that only eight were rigorous enough to meet their standards to include in the meta-study.
Dr. Caleb Banta-Green at the University of Washington has studied the impact of opioids for nearly 20 years. His reaction to the study?
"That's surprising. And then you dig into it and realize they're doing a different type of study. And they're looking at eight studies of four locations, even though there are more than 100 locations around the world," Banta-Green said.
"I think that the main finding of the study is not something we can generalize and say hey, this little study found this, so safe consumption sites don't work. This really does not show that," Banta-Green said.
He also said increasing cases of fentanyl showing up in heroin- making it more deadly- might have an impact, offsetting benefits of safe consumption sites.
Seattle wants to set up what the city calls a "fixed mobile" safe injection site. In a vehicle that's similar, but larger than its mobile medical van.
Supporters of safe injection sites have long said they're necessary to save lives.
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