June 5 (UPI) -- Most people addicted to opioids want safe places to use those drugs, a new survey shows.
Roughly 77 percent of people in Baltimore, Boston and Providence, R.I., addicted to heroin, fentanyl and illicit opioid pills want safe injection facilities and overdose prevention sites, according to a study published Wednesday in the Journal of Urban Health.
"On the whole, we found a strong willingness to use safe consumption spaces. This is important because often the voices of people who use drugs are not always included in policy debates or in the implementation of public health interventions," Ju Nyeong Park, a researcher at Johns Hopkins University and study lead author, said in a news release.
The researchers surveyed 326 people who participated in syringe participation programs and other places throughout Baltimore, Boston and Providence. About 70 percent of the group were homeless, and 60 percent regularly used drugs in "public or semi-public places."
More than a third of the opioid users said they had overdosed in the past six months, while 73 percent reported recently consuming a drug that contained fentanyl. The substance is used to enhance the potency of drugs like heroin, making an overdose more likely.
Concerns of community blight and endorsement of illegal drug use have caused many people to push back against safe spaces, the researcher says. Yet, politicians are considering it as a viable option to combat the opioid epidemic. According to the study, more than 70,000 overdose deaths occurred in 2017.
Many people point to the success safe spaces have had in other countries in slowing down the transmission of HIV and Hepatitis B and C viruses.
Still, the United States currently has no legal safe consumption spaces because of a federal law known as the "crack house statute" that prohibits anyone from providing property for illegal drug use.
However, even if safe places were legal, many people would refuse to use them due to the potential consequences. About 38 percent of opioid users would fear being arrested and 36 percent would worry about privacy concerns if they used a safe place, according to the researchers.
"The study documents that people who use drugs are motivated to be safe and take precautions to reduce their exposure to harm," Susan Sherman, a researcher at Johns Hopkins University and study senior investigator, said in a news release. "We can use this evidence to holistically address the opioid epidemic."