Story Posted: 2019-12-04
Research provides insight into supervised consumption services
November 25, 2019 – Supervised consumption services were the subject of the 2019 W.F. Mitchell Bioethics Seminar. Approximately sixty people attended in person alongside fifty WebEx sites to hear guest speaker Dr. Elaine Hyshka, Assistant Professor of Health Policy and Management in the University of Alberta’s School of Public Health, present on the topic, “Supervised consumption services: What does the evidence say?”
Dr. Hyshka walked participants through the history of Supervised Consumption Sites (SCS), sharing that the first official SCS opened in Bern, Switzerland in 1986. As of December 2018, there were 117 SCS’s operating across Europe, Australia and Canada.
SCS’s provide persons who are suffering from addictions with a hygienic space in which to inject, eat or smoke drugs which the person brings with them. There are many different types of SCS’s, ranging from SCS’s at a fixed site to mobile SCS’s, and from SCS’s that are stand-alone to SCS’s that are integrated into existing services, such as a hospital or a community resource centre. All SCS’s aim to prevent overdoses, and Dr. Hyshka shared that to date there has never been an overdose death at an SCS.
Drawing on her experience as a core member of AMSISE, a community coalition that successfully implemented four supervised consumption services in Edmonton, Dr. Hyshka presented the scientific studies that have investigated the outcomes of SCS’s. These studies have shown a decline in overdoses in the area around SCS’s, a decrease in syringe sharing, and reductions in public drug use. Perhaps most encouragingly, studies have also shown an increase in uptake into detox and treatment for persons who use SCS’s. Dr. Hyshka’s statistics from Edmonton show similar results with 798 overdoses reversed since March 2018 across four SCS’s, one of which is located in the Royal Alexandra Hospital.
The W.F. Mitchell endowment was created in memory of W.F. Mitchell, a Saskatoon businessman who was committed to ethics. A video of the full 2019 W.F. Bioethics Seminar and Dr. Hyshka’s slides are available below.