Last Updated on August 19, 2019
Democrat presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has unveiled a new criminal justice reform plan that would legalize “safe injection sites” for people to intravenously consume illicit drugs.
In the massive 6,000 word proposal, the Sanders campaign gives credence to many popular progressive talking points, such as fighting “institutional racism” and giving transgender inmates taxpayer-subsidized access to “all the health care they need.”
The boldest aspect of the Sanders plan, however, is an initiative to institute so-called safe injection sites (also known as drug consumption rooms or DCRs) where users of illicit drugs can safely overdose free from fear of criminal prosecution.
According to the University of Southern California’s Department of Nursing, supervised injection sites provide drug users with “injection equipment [that] includes syringes, sterile cookers, filters and tourniquets,” as well as a “secure environment, free from criminal prosecution” and a dedicated support team of clinicians that are “equipped with crash kits to respond immediately to an overdose.”
The claim that supervised injection sites create safer communities and would counteract America’s addiction epidemic has yet to be corroborated by any concrete evidence, as NPR reports:
Keith Humphreys, an addiction researcher and psychiatry professor at Stanford University, says a stronger evidence base is needed.
“Nobody should be looking at this literature making confident conclusions in either direction,” he says.
Humphreys says he’d welcome better tools to address the drug crisis. He doesn’t think the available evidence points to supervised injection as being harmful, but the research has not strongly demonstrated an overall reduction in overdose deaths over time.
The real problem, he says, is there just are not a lot of good studies, period, on supervised injection. “So I think we should be pretty cautious,” he says.
The NPR article also mentions that one of the only peer-reviewed studies on the subject concludes that the evidence for government funded DCRs is dubious at best, though said study was quickly removed from the medical journal that published it:
In another review of studies published in August in the International Journal of Drug Policy, the researchers, criminologists from the University of South Wales in the United Kingdom, found that the evidence for supervised injection is not as strong as previously thought. However, after publication, this article was retracted by the journal, with the author’s consent, because of “methodological weaknesses.”
The lack of substantive evidence that DCRs have a positive impact on addiction appears to not be a concern for the Sanders campaign, which also proposes many other sweeping government programs to fight perceived injustice at the expense of the American taxpayer.