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Safe consumption sites, not just injection, are necessary for an equitable harm reduction response to drug use

April 14, 2016
Patricia Sully

"The war on drugs is not and never has been racially equitable.  Without intervention, its end will not be equitable either. Although rates of drug use and sales are comparable across racial lines, people of color have faced significantly higher rates of arrest, prosecution and conviction for drug use and sales than people who are White. It is a sad fact, and one that has resulted in gross racial disparity in our criminal justice system. 

The national interest in safe-injection spaces is just one of many signals that the end of the war is nigh. Such spaces provide a place for injection drug users to inject under medical supervision, with clean supplies and out of the alleys and doorways. It is an important public health intervention and a step in the right direction. But it is not sufficient. We do not need safe-injection spaces alone; we need safe-consumption spaces. An intervention that prioritizes heroin and opiate use but leaves out crack cocaine, a drug that is predominantly smoked rather than injected, is an intervention turning a blind eye to racial equity. "

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