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Supervised consumption services (SCS) are provided in legally sanctioned facilities that allow people to consume pre-obtained drugs under the supervision of trained staff. They are designed to reduce the health and public order issues often associated with public drug consumption.

SCS are also called overdose prevention centers, safe or supervised injection facilities (SIFs), and drug consumption rooms (DCRs).

safe injection site

There are approximately 120 SCS currently operating in twelve countries around the world (Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Switzerland). At this time there are none in the United States, but New Jersey, Colorado and California are making movement.

Benefits of Harm Reduction Related to Substance Use

  • Reduce hepatitis and HIV.
  • Reduce overdose deaths and other early deaths among people who use substances.
  • Reduce injection substance use in public places and reduce the number of used needles in public.
  • Reduce the sharing of needles and other substance use equipment.
  • Reduce crime and increase employment among people who use substances.
  • Educate about safer injecting and smoking and reduce the frequency of use.
  • Educate about safer sex and sexual health and increase condom use.
  • Increase referrals to treatment programs and health and social services.
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Concerns About Harm Reduction

  • Harm reduction could make using more accessible and people will be less likely to quit.
  • Harm reduction might encourage people to continue to use.
  • Harm reduction could drain funding from treatment program.
  • Harm reduction could lead to legalizing more substances.

Harm reduction is a set of practical strategies and ideas intended to reduce negative consequences linked with drug use.  Harm reduction incorporates a variety of strategies from safer use, to managed use to abstinence to meet drug users “where they’re at,” addressing conditions of use along with the use itself. Harm reduction reduces the risks of substance use including the spread of infections like hepatitis and HIV. Overall, the goal of harm reduction is to provide opportunities for people to lead healthier lives!

Author: Nicole Horta, LSW, LCADC


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