Myth: Supervised consumption sites "enable" and condone drug use
Fact: Supervised consumption sites are a form of harm reduction. Harm reduction strategies do not condone the use of drugs, but recognize that drug use occurs in our communities and follows the notion of meeting people where they are at in their recovery.
Harm reduction aims to reduce the harms and risks related to drug use and promotes positive health changes for people who use drugs (National Harm Reduction Coalition, 2020; Harm Reduction International, 2021).
SCS do not enable drug use or advocate for more drug use. SCS are health services centres that foster positive relationships with people who use drugs, operate in a non-judgmental manner, with the intent to lower the risk of overdose, blood-borne infections and other physical harms associated with drug use.
Myth: Supervised consumption sites cost too much money
Fact: Supervised consumption sites actually save money. SCS save health care dollars in two ways: by reducing trips to urgent care and by reducing the spread of STBBIs.
In the short term, SCS significantly reduce both the cost of overdoses and the need for urgent care. Individuals regularly using illicit drugs visit the emergency room more frequently compared to the general population. SCS avert these costs by treating overdoses on site, thereby avoiding ambulance, emergency room and hospital costs.
In the long-term, SCS also reduce the costs associated with HIV infections and other blood-borne illnesses. A 2011 study estimated that each new HIV infection results in a net cost of $1.3 million over the lifetime of the patient.
Ultimately, SCS provide a good return on investment!
Myth: Supervised consumption sites draw criminal activity
Fact: Data from supervised consumption sites in Vancouver, British Columbia and Sydney, Australia showed that SCS in those places have not resulted in increased crime rates.
Supervised consumption sites help lower the rates of calls to police and emergency medical services while providing on-site health care, de-escalation and crisis intervention and social supports. SCS act as an entry point to refer people for further comprehensive substance use treatment, on request.
Myth: Supervised consumption sites are illegal
Fact: Supervised consumption sites can and do operate legally in Canada. Canadian law has an existing framework for the legal operation of SCS.
In order to open and operate a sanctioned SCS, organizations must apply for and be granted an exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substance Act. Applying for this exemption is a rigorous process requiring much research and planning. Inside a sanctioned SCS, people can use their own illicit drugs and staff/peers can observe this consumption without the interference of law enforcement.