Impacts of a Safe Injection Site: One Perspective

The topic of a Safe Injection Site (SIS) has been a hot button issue this election season, amounting to large anti-SIS campaigns, a ban in Burien, and a judge deeming it a public health issue that should not be voted on.

There isn’t much definitive information on how an SIS would work in America; most statistics coming from Europe are hard to apply in this country due to the nature of how different the political and social landscapes are. It’s hard to know where to start with SIS debate so let’s begin with the main point.

SIS Will Save Lives

Yes, they will save lives; which in itself might be enough to implement SIS. However, opponents are quick to point out that making life-destroying drugs easier to use isn’t exactly a good thing.

From there we can get into the weeds about many other points, but I want to focus on local impact. One of the greatest fears of opening an SIS is that we are condemning a part of town into seedy poverty. By putting an SIS in a “high risk” area, we will ensure its squalid surroundings forever.

The European Report on Drug Consumption Rooms [5.2.2] states:

“Several studies report that small-scale drug trafficking takes place in the immediate vicinity of consumption rooms”

The Report then goes on to say:

“However, as many rooms are deliberately located near places where illicit drugs are sold, it is difficult to claim… the existence of such rooms leads… to drug dealing.”

In other words, they seem to say, drug deals were already happening so you can’t say SIS caused an increase. Illegal drugs being sold in an area doesn’t justify condemning that neighborhood to be forever a drug zone. Dealers will go to where users congregate, creating hot spots and worsening the problem. By making an area more convenient and inviting to DO drugs, you are making it all too convenient to SELL drugs. 

The soon-to-be Sheriff of King County, Mitzi Johanknecht, has come out against SIS. However, she went on to state that she would uphold local laws surrounding those sites, if implemented.

This will essentially create an area in town where drug activity is legal. And yet, the European Report claims that SIS somehow won’t attract people to do drugs there. Creating a service meant to attract a demographic and then denying it, is backwards. Either it attracts people or it doesn’t. It can’t only attract people who already were doing drugs in the area and no one else. Worsening the drug epidemic is an outcome that I’m sure we all want to avoid.


It is clear that building an SIS will save the lives of users who overdose. However, it will do nothing to stop already established drug markets. In fact, it will bolster the drug trade and do little to solve the true causes of drug abuse. We see SIS as enabling and babysitting users. Instead, we need a compassionate solution that focuses on treatment and reduction of drug use.

Feel like we missed something? We want to hear what you have to say. Post a comment below with what you think about Safe Injection Sites.




2 thoughts on “Impacts of a Safe Injection Site: One Perspective

  1. The author rightly states that a SIS clinic by itself would be ineffective. And also that European social conditions are different. There the SIS model works because it is a part of a continuum of care within an existing national healthcare system.
    With our current healthcare system fractured and inadequate it’s premature to take a stance for or against the SIS model without the context of other addiction services.
    Taking such a stance is a misappplication of the taxpayer’s money.
    Our time and resources would be better spent defining the problem of addiction in Burien and which part of any solution is within the city’s mandate. This is going to take an effort to look at all of the facets of the problem in cooperation with healthcare providers, addiction specialists and the other governing bodies involved.
    Jumping out ahead of the facts and making a “Not in My Backyard” declaration says that our minds are closed to the very conversations needed to solve this problem.

    1. I agree. I believe the healthcare system is a vital part of what make Europe’s SIS work. I also believe that the “Not in My Backyard” argument does have some merit. You can look at Canada’s SIS and see its not exactly something you want opening next door. One aspect that you don’t hear to often is how this will effect drug dealers. But, then again an SIS isn’t about drug dealers, it’s about addicts. Homeless addicts specifically. It’s understandable that building a place that will attract homeless addicts, that doesn’t solve their homelessness or addiction problems, is an issue.

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