Safe places to use drugs would save $6M in costs associated with opioid epidemic, study finds

If drug users were allowed to use in a safe place it would save $6 million a year in costs associated with the opioid epidemic, according to a new cost-benefit analysis conducted by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and others.

The findings were published in this month's Harm Reduction Journal.

Safe consumption spaces are areas where people can use illicit drugs in a place carefully monitored by medical staff who can also treat overdoses. Proponents say it keeps users from using in dangerous places such as abandoned buildings or on street corners.

The users can also access social services such as drug treatment and help with housing.

Safe consumption spaces are illegal in America, but used in many other countries. There is a push to open locations in the United States, including two in Baltimore.

The Bloomberg researchers said in their cost analysis that the spaces would reduce overdose deaths, HIV and hepatitis C infections, overdose-related ambulance calls and hospitalizations.

"No one has ever died from an overdose in a safe consumption space," the study's senior author, Susan G. Sherman, a professor in the Department of Health, Behavior and Society at the Bloomberg School, said in a statement. "Thousands of lives have been saved. There are lots of doors people can walk through when they are addicted to drugs. We want them to walk through a door that may eventually lead to successful treatment — and keep them alive until they are ready for that."

A bill allowing safe consumption spaces failed in the Maryland General Assembly this year.

amcdaniels@baltsun.com

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