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Safe Injection Site in the United States


Safe injection sites in the U.S has a very a limited history due to the complicated history of different government conflicts. This is due to the different political parties disputing whether these sites are beneficial or not. So, for the U.S government to find the solution of these disagreements they must look at the history of injection sites across the world. “Shooting galleries”, the older term for injection sites, have a very limited history as they have been around the world for a little under 30 years.

The first example of safe injection sites is in Sydney Australia where very few profit facilities were being ran in the 1990’s. Where the National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research reports, Authors disputed the legally sanctioned sites in Australia from those examples in the care they provide. The supervisors in these injection sites weren’t properly handling the patients as they didn’t have good training. This is different to the current injection sites as all the staff are properly trained.

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These staff know how to safely inject the drugs and know how to treat the patients with any harmful side effects and can care if they do experience an overdose.

The first location with trained staff was in the Netherlands during the early 1970s as an extension of an “alternative youth service” provided by the St. Paul’s church in Rotterdam. The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction wrote the official report for this location, and states, at its peak it had two centers that had many services such as an informal meeting place with a drop-in center providing basic health care, food and a laundering service.

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One of the centers was also one of the first in providing needle-exchange. They state, ‘Its purpose was to improve the mental health of the clients and to integrate them more smoothly into society.’ The centers received some support from law enforcement and local government officials, although they were not officially sanctioned until 1996.[7]

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction also reported on the center, in 1986, where a cafГ© was set up in Berne for injecting drug consumers who were unwanted at the other causes. They state, ‘In a plan, fighting HIV, the general concept of the cafГ© was a place where they would provide basic meals and beverages. Also, they would give information on safe sex, safe drug use and hand out condoms and clean needles.’ Staff also provided counselling and referrals. An injection room was not originally intended; however, the drug users began to use the facility for that exact reason, and this soon became the most popular use of the cafe. After talking with the police and legislature, the cafГ© was converted into the first legally sanctioned drug consumption facility, where no one under the age of 18 was allowed.[8]

During the 1990s more legal facilities were created in other big cities in Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands. In the 2000’s even more facilities were opened in Spain, Luxembourg, Norway, Canada and Australia.[2] Due to police corruption and street crime in Sydney, caused the Wood Royal Commission to open of an injection facility in the area, which was called the Sydney Medically Supervised Injecting Centre (MSIC) which opened in May 2001. In Canada, problems with drug use, dirty needles and the dense crime made Downtown Eastside of Vancouver an ideal location for the first facility in North America, when Insite started working in 2003.[10]

The injection sites in Europe though were created because of a different reason. Examples of these reasons are the different social and medical opinions on injections of these drugs, and the different effects that the homeless had on society. The different stigma around drugs in Europe can be shown in how the clients could consume drugs that didn’t require a needle in these sites. At the beginning of 2009 there were a total of 92 active facilities that were operating in 61 cities. This included 30 cities in the Netherlands, 16 cities in Germany and 8 cities in Switzerland. In fact, the exact reasoning for the projects in Vancouver and Sydney are made to collect data as they are created as scientific pilot projects. The goal of these centers is also more clinical in nature, as they provide true supervision with a staff that is equipped and properly trained to give out Naloxone or Oxygen in the case of an opioid overdose.

By comparing the different methods of these past attempts of safe injection sites the U.S. government can take the positives from these sites to try and perfect their own version. Due to the transgressions between the different political parties, the passing of the policies surrounding these sites will be much more difficult than it seems. Another factor of these complications is that different state legislatures can pass different policies throughout the different states, which can lead to some confusion as one thing that is legal in one state could be illegal in the one next to it. State legislatures have the authority to control the sanctions and laws of Injection sites, including the consumption and possession of illegal drugs on the grounds. Leo Beletsky, the professor of department of health sciences and law at Northeastern University states, ‘States and municipalities have the duty to protect and preserve the welfare of their citizens.’ The disputes about the effectiveness of the Injection Sites do not change the legislatures’ perspective to pass health laws based on their own individual evaluation of the facts.

Many of the local governments though, have some type of police power to protect the health of the public, and in turn have the power to create programs that are supported by the evidence in the effectiveness in fighting the current health threats. Beletsky also states, ‘Syringe exchange programs authorized by local governments have successfully operated in several cities in Pennsylvania, California, and Ohio without state authorization’. Using the previous cases, safe injection sites could be authorized by a mayor, local health commissioner, county agency, or city council, depending on local government design.

However, a locally authorized safe injection site would have the worst traction in relation to a federal challenge and might also be reversed due to conflicting with state law. For example, Sawyer, a reporter based around the New York area reports that, ‘the attempt in Atlantic City, NJ, to implement a syringe exchange program was successfully challenged in court by the local prosecutor, who argued that it was prohibited by state drug law. A locally authorized SIF would have relatively less protection against police interference.’ Despite the importance of these legal arguments, the durability of a local authorization would also be reliant on an explicit or implicit agreement among the stakeholders to avoid any arrests and other legal challenges.

In conclusion, the history of these safe injection sites is crucial in the state legislatures ruling on the creation of these sites in America. Despite the lack of a long history, the earlier creation of these sites in countries like the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland, have shown the positives and negatives in their integration. So, in order to create the most successful solution America must take the past mistakes and turn them into lessons to learn from.

Cite this page

Safe Injection Site in the United States. (2020, May 10). Retrieved from

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