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Overdose Prevention Centres, Safe Consumption Sites, and Drug Consumption Rooms: A Rapid Evidence Review

By Dr Gillian W Shorter 

Drug Science is pleased to announce the release of a rapid evidence review collating and synthesizing the existing evidence on Overdose Prevention Centres (OPCs), outlining what we know about their impact on individuals, communities, and public health. The primary objective of this rapid review is to offer a comprehensive understanding of OPCs, for policymakers, politicians, service providers, health departments, current and potential service providers, researchers, and anyone else interested in the health and well-being of people who use drugs. The review includes sections exploring service models, operational considerations, costs, policing and emergency services experiences and a wealth of evidence dating back over 25 years on the recorded outcomes from a global context.

This review includes over 550 works on OPCs. Although initially designed in response to queries from those interested in OPCs in the UK, the broader ambition is to offer value to the international community. As such, we hope these findings resonate with stakeholders worldwide.

At the core of this review lies an exploration of Overdose Prevention Centres as community facilities designed to provide a safe, hygienic, non-judgmental environment for individuals to consume their own drugs. Operating under the primary principle that supervised drug consumption enhances safety and reduces the likelihood of fatal overdoses, this review highlights the evidence that OPCs are also able to facilitate a secondary function: to promote voluntary access to a range of social, health, welfare, and drug treatment services. The synthesized research also suggests that many of the feared unintended consequences such as increased crime and increased drug use do not occur in locations where OPCs are implemented. The range of OPC models explored in this review are typically characterized as being low-threshold services—free at the point of access with minimal demands—making them inclusive and accessible to often marginalised people who use drugs.

As a concluding note, the review emphasizes the continual need for robust evaluations of OPCs to improve our understanding of how, why and for whom do such forms of enhanced harm reduction work for.

For further information, interviews, or inquiries, please contact the author team via Dr Gillian Shorter.

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