Rutgers scholar Jamey Lister, an expert in opioid-related issues and barriers to treatment, is available to discuss the ruling that a supervised injection site would violate federal law. 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a 2-1 ruling against the site on Tuesday. The site, for users of heroin, fentanyl and other opiates, would have been first in the United States.

“The ruling against Philadelphia’s Safehouse, a supervised site to inject opioids like heroin, is disappointing,” said Lister. “There are 120 of these safe spaces worldwide. Sites like these help reduce overdose death, the spread of infectious diseases and increase the chances that people engage in addiction treatment. Fentanyl and other opiates are routinely prescribed in medical settings for pain, and the goal of Safehouse was to allow supervised use as a means of reducing medical harms.”

“While not stated directly, it’s possible the decision was influenced by a misconception about drug use, that innovation wouldn’t be necessary if people would ‘just say no’ to drugs – a stigmatizing idea grounded in the belief that addiction is caused by a moral failing or a lack of willpower. That idea is in stark contrast to the consensus among scientists and leading advocacy groups who view addiction as a chronic medical condition in need of humanity and accessible treatment, recovery and harm reduction options. Sadly, until we address these harmful and pseudoscientific views, promising opportunities like Safehouse will continue to slide through our fingertips."

Lister, an assistant professor at Rutgers’ School of Social Work, is an expert on addictive disorders, opioid-related overdose deaths, and evidence-based treatment services for addiction. His work focuses on these topics among people living in disadvantaged rural and urban communities.