amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

Issue Brief: The Case for Supervised Consumption Services

In the United States, people who use drugs (PWUD) continue to be at elevated risk for HIV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At the same time, a surging epidemic of overdoses from heroin and prescription painkillers (i.e., opioids) claimed nearly 50,000 lives in 2014 alone. To save lives, there is a pronounced need to implement scientically validated harm reduction programs, which reduce the risks associated with drug use and facilitate access to addiction treatment and medical care. Among the newest and most innovative interventions to reduce overdoses are supervised consumption services.

In This Issue Brief

• Drug overdose fatalities have reached epidemic proportions in the U.S., the majority associated with opioids, particularly prescription painkillers and heroin.

• In addition, people who inject drugs account for 11% of all men and 23% of all women living with HIV, but many lack access to sterile injection equipment to keep them from acquiring HIV. The vast majority of Hepatitis C (HCV) cases in the U.S. are also associated with injection drug use.

• The absence of private, secure, and hygienic spaces often drives people who inject drugs to do so in public, with discarded syringes posing a health hazard, and overdose fatalities increasingly occur in bathrooms in fast food restaurants, hospitals, public libraries, and churches.

• Supervised consumption services (SCS) provide a hygienic space for people to use illicit drugs under the supervision of trained staff. SCS are designed to reduce the risk of HIV/HCV transmission, prevent overdose fatalities, and connect people who use drugs with addiction treatment and other social services.

• Research has shown that SCS are associated with greater access to medical and social services and reduced public drug use. Moreover, there are no persuasive data to suggest that SCS increase drug use or the frequency of injecting, or that they result in higher rates of local drug-related crimes.

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