A new cost-benefit analysis conducted by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and others suggests that $6 million in costs related to the opioid epidemic could be saved each year if a single “safe consumption” space for illicit drug users were opened in Baltimore.
It would also reduce overdose deaths, HIV and hepatitis C infections, overdose-related ambulance calls and hospitalizations – and bring scores of people into treatment, they found.
Carefully monitored “safe consumption” spaces, which are not legal in the United States but have been used in dozens of cities around the world, provide a clean indoor environment in which people can use their own drugs with medical personnel on hand to reverse overdoses should they occur. These facilities serve as access points to substance use disorder treatment and other vital social services for drug users, such as medical care and housing.
The authors of the study, published this month in the Harm Reduction Journal, say that the findings add economic evidence to the body of research that already links such spaces to a reduction in fatal drug overdoses and an increase in people seeking treatment. “Safe consumption” spaces may be especially critical right now: Last year, the United States hit a record for the number of people who have died from drug overdose, and fentanyl, a more dangerous and powerful drug than heroin, is increasingly being added to heroin in places like Baltimore.