New research has found that overdose prevention centers in New York City have not led to an increase in crime. This is despite concerns that the establishment of harm-reduction centers would cause crime to skyrocket. The new findings add to previous research that demonstrated the centers’ potential in decreasing overdose deaths.
Overdose-prevention centers allow individuals to use illegal substances in a supervised environment, helping reduce the risk of harms associated with drug use, such as a fatal overdose.
The study was carried out by researchers at Brown University, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Connecticut. For their research, the investigators examined crime trends in NYC’s first government-sanctioned overdose prevention centers, which were launched two years ago. They then compared their findings to areas close to more than 15 syringe service programs that did not provide resources to prevent overdose.
The researchers also analyzed 311 and 911 calls, drug-possession arrests, public nuisances, law enforcement summons for criminal infractions and medical events. They observed no considerable increases in calls for emergency services or crimes recorded by law enforcement in neighborhoods where the prevention centers were located.
In addition, they recorded no statistically significant spike in either violent or property crime near these overdose prevention centers. This is despite a reduction in the number of drug-possession arrests made as the state continues to reprioritize law enforcement.
In their report, the researchers stated that statistically significant decreases in narcotics enforcement by the police around these centers was observed, adding that this was consistent with NYC’s commitment to ensuring that individuals could access the centers without any interference by the police. The researchers also noted that more studies were needed to establish that overdose-prevention centers wouldn’t be linked to localized increases in disorder and crime in the long-term.
At the moment, however, the findings strengthen arguments from harm-reduction advocates on the minimal risk associated with using overdose-prevention sites to help alleviate the risk of overdose deaths, as the opioid crisis rages on.
The research’s findings were published by the American Medical Association in “JAMA Public Health.”
A separate study published in 2022 determined that trained staff intervened in more than 100 overdose instances two months after the first overdose prevention center was launched in NYC. The staff are said to have alleviated risks of overdose by administering oxygen and naloxone as well as offering other services to prevent death. Naloxone is a medication that has been approved by the FDA to reverse an opioid overdose.
The positive role that overdose-prevention centers are playing, contrary to the views of detractors, may mirror the positive impact that marijuana companies such as SNDL Inc. (NASDAQ: SNDL) are having in spite of prohibitionists’ alarmist claims that legalizing cannabis does more harm than good to society.
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