Civil Discourse: Are Safe Use Drug Centers a Positive Addition to our Communities?

Safe Use Centers Do More Good Than Harm

AUTHORS: By Moriah Rivera-Lawrence, Nick May, Cheyanne Rider, and The Civil Discourse Program 

Per the CDC’s latest report, drug overdose deaths are up by 30% in the past year. Over 100,000 people in the USA have died. Oregon is a hotspot, with a 45.1% increase in fatalities between April 2020 and 2021. Safe use centers are a way we can save lives. Safe use centers do more good than harm because they reduce needle sharing, provide accessible resources, and can help turn the tide against the increase in deaths.

Needle exchange programs, like the ones in Linn and Benton counties promote public safety by collecting used needles and swapping them for new ones. This prevents people from sharing old needles, preventing the spread of diseases such as HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis. Safe use centers make access easy. The more access there is, the more lives can be saved by preventing disease. The side effect of saving lives is cost savings for Medicare and more. Per the CDC, if the USA were to invest just ten million dollars annually into needle sharing programs, the taxpayer could expect to see a $7.58 return on each dollar spent.

Walking into a treatment facility is daunting for a user, especially if it could result in criminal charges. According to Police Department Chief Bill Hollingsed, “The current criminal justice system does not provide treatment and rehab, in its current form. … [These centers] may be the only opportunity for addicts to get the necessary treatment they need to get away from drugs.” Numerous studies show that supervised injection sites can reduce overdoses and increase access to healthcare.

According to a study that examined one of the first safe injection sites in Canada, “those who used Insite were more likely to initiate detoxing from drugs and access treatment like methadone, compared to those who weren’t using the facility.”

Linn County Harm Reduction offers referrals for mental health, drug and alcohol treatment, and more. Those that access safe injection sites want to protect their health but often don’t know how to quit. These services remove many of the road blocks on the path to recovery and offer help along the way.

Last year, a record 93,000 American died from an overdose, and According to the American Psychological Association, the growing prevalence of fentanyl in conjunction with pandemic-related strains, from economic stress and loneliness to general anxiety about the virus, is a major driver for this increase. Safe use centers can reduce isolation and are able to test drugs for fentanyl. Considering that an average of five Oregonians die every week from opioid overdose, it’s clear our state would benefit from these centers.

Safe use centers and the harm reduction programs they provide a space for are essential resources for people in need. By reducing needle sharing and providing additional resources, safe use centers do more good than harm and can help save lives. Those in Linn County interested in harm reduction services can direct their questions to Benton County residents can call 541-766-6314 or email

Safe Use Centers Do More Harm Than Good

AUTHORS: By Christopher Harris and The Civil Discourse Program 

With Oregon’s recent decriminalization of drug possession becoming the new reality, there is another trend that is slowly gathering steam – safe injection sites. On the surface, these sites seem like a safe space for one to do their drug of choice with free testing, needles, and medical staff readily available.  However, they do little to address the underlying problem of addiction, and may in fact prolong the addiction process. As some of us with addicts in our inner circles know, it is often an extreme event, such as overdosing, that sets addicts on the road to recovery. By providing them a relatively risk free environment to do what they plan on doing anyway, safe injection sites may be encouraging addicts to continue using drugs. 

Another fear that surrounds safe injection sites is the idea of bringing “unsavory” individuals to the community. While there are communities that view these sites as a welcome upgrade to the intravenous drug use in the streets, parks, and public restrooms, there are also communities that feel that they can increase crime and disorder. What proponents of safe injection sites argue is that it is not the drug use that causes this increase, but it is the unsafe environments in which this drug use occurs. There is little data to prove or disprove this claim as crime statistics are generally correlational. The problem is that there is still much data that needs to be collected on the long term effects of these sites to say one way or the other. You can say that both sides have their points, but it is hard to disagree with the historical data surrounding drug use and crime in the United States. It is worth noting that a recent study examining “safe consumption sites” by government officials in Alberta suggests that these sites may contribute to an increase in crime, needle debris, and aggressive and erratic behavior by individuals who visit the sites.

Drug use is a complex problem that needs to be addressed, but there are better ways to fight the root causes of addiction. We could start by increasing the availability of health care, mental health systems, and treatment centers. There is much more to this topic, but safe use centers are merely a band-aid on a bullet wound. They may hide the bleeding, however, the hole is still there.

There are legitimate arguments for both sides of this controversy. However, more data is needed to understand the long term effects, both positive and negative, of safe injection sites. We need answers to the following questions: Is this [safe use centers] the next step in fighting the drug use epidemic that is plaguing the United States and our communities? Or is it just another attempt to simply do something about the problem that may never work or may make the problem much larger? Only time will tell, but would you be willing to have one of these sites next to your home, business, or community park before we find out?

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