Un­der­ground haven op­er­ates in U.S.

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Mike Sto­bbe

NEW YORK» A safe haven where drug users in­ject with heroin and other drugs has been op­er­at­ing qui­etly in the United States for the past three years, a re­port re­veals.

None were known to ex­ist in the U.S. un­til the dis­clo­sure in a med­i­cal jour­nal, although sev­eral states and ci­ties are push­ing to es­tab­lish these so-called su­per­vised in­jec­tion sites where users can shoot up un­der the care of a trained staff that can treat an over­dose if nec­es­sary.

In the re­port re­leased Tues­day, two re­searchers said they’ve been eval­u­at­ing an un­der­ground safe place that opened in 2014. As a con­di­tion of their re­search, they didn’t dis­close the lo­ca­tion of the fa­cil­ity — which is un­sanc­tioned and po­ten­tially il­le­gal — or the so­cial ser­vice agency run­ning it.

The re­searchers of­fered lit­tle data, and their main find­ing was that no one died while in­ject­ing at the safe place. There were two over­doses on site, which were re­versed by staff mem­bers us­ing the over­dose med­i­ca­tion nalox­one.

Ad­vo­cates and some politi­cians in re­cent years have called for gov­ern­ment-sanc­tioned in­jec­tion sites as the U.S. grap­ples with the opi­oid epi­demic. More than 52,000 Amer­i­cans died from drug over­doses in 2015 — the most ever — fu­eled by soar­ing abuse of heroin and pre­scrip­tion painkillers. Gov­ern­ment sta­tis­tics for the first nine months of last year, also re­leased Tues­day, show over­dose death rates con­tin­u­ing to rise.

Some say the new re­port could have an im­pact on ef­forts to es­tab­lish safe in­jec­tion sites around the U.S. Such sites have been backed by law­mak­ers in New York, Cal­i­for­nia and other states, along with of­fi­cials in ci­ties such as Seat­tle, San Fran­cisco and Ithaca, N.Y.

“It shows peo­ple that it’s pos­si­ble” to op­er­ate one of these in the U.S., said Lind­say LaSalle, an at­tor­ney with Drug Pol­icy Al­liance who has helped draft safe haven leg­isla­tive pro­pos­als in six states.

In­jec­tion sites are le­gal in coun­tries in­clud­ing Aus­tralia, Canada, Den­mark, France, Ger­many, Lux­em­bourg, the Nether­lands, Nor­way, Spain and Switzer­land where med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als mon­i­tor drug users. They also pro­vide clean nee­dles to pre­vent the spread of in­fec­tious dis­eases such as HIV or hep­ati­tis C. Ideally, they also steer users into treat­ment and other ser­vices.

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