Overdose Prevention Centers

Insite, North America’s first legal supervised injection site, in Vancouver. (Photo courtesy of Vancouver Coastal Health)

Overdose Prevention Centers (OPCs) are vital in the fight against overdose deaths and are proven to stop a fatal overdose. OPCs provide a sanctioned, safe space for people to consume pre-obtained drugs in controlled settings under the supervision of trained staff and with access to sterile consumption equipment and tools to check their supply for the presence of fentanyl. Participants can also receive health care, counseling, and referrals to health and social services, including drug treatment. 

They are also called  supervised consumption services (SCS), supervised injection facilities (SIFs), and drug consumption rooms (DCRs).

Facility staff members do not directly assist in consumption or handle any drugs brought in by clients, but are present to provide sterile injection supplies, answer questions on safe injection practices, administer first aid if needed, and monitor for overdose. This is particularly pertinent to fentanyl because the onset of overdose is rapid and waiting for an ambulance may mean death or permanent brain damage due to lack of oxygen. Overdose Prevention Center staff also offer general medical advice and referrals to drug treatment, medical treatment, and other social support programs. 

There are more than 120 OPCs currently operating in ten countries around the world (Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New York City, Norway, Spain and Switzerland). 

Benefits of Overdose Prevention Centers

Over 100 evidence-based, peer-reviewed studies have consistently proven the positive impacts of supervised consumption services, including: 

  • Increasing entry into substance use disorder treatment
  • Reducing the amount and frequency that clients use drugs
  • Reducing public disorder and public injecting while increasing public safety
  • Reducing HIV and Hepatitis C risk behavior (i.e. syringe sharing, unsafe sex)
  • Successfully managing frequent on-site overdoses and reducing drug-related overdose death rates (there has not been a single overdose fatality at any SCS worldwide)
  • Saving costs due to a reduction in disease, overdose deaths, and need for emergency medical services
  • Increasing the delivery of medical and social services

Overdose Prevention Centers in the U.S.

In December 2021, New York City opened the nation's first-ever Overdose Prevention Center pilots. This lifesaving win comes after years of hard-fought advocacy led by the Drug Policy Alliance and our allies.

In July 2021, Rhode Island became the first state in the nation to authorize a two-year pilot program to establish "harm reduction centers" where people can consume pre-obtained substances under the supervision of trained staff.

“Studies from other countries have shown that supervised injection facilities reduce the number of overdose deaths, reduce transmission rates of infectious disease, and increase the number of individuals initiating treatment for substance use disorders without increasing drug trafficking or crime in the areas where the facilities are located.” – American Medical Association

Building Momentum with DPA Leading the Way

We’ll build on our momentum with similar efforts to establish overdose prevention centers in other cities and states across the country. We hope other states will follow New York's example. The Drug Policy Alliance has long been advocating for SCS pilot programs in California, Washington, Colorado, Vermont, New York, and Maryland, among other states. OPCs can play a vital role as part of a larger public health approach to drug policy. They are intended to complement – not replace – existing prevention, harm reduction, and treatment interventions.

We envision a world where one day we won’t even need overdose prevention centers, where we take care of people before they experience a crisis. We want people to be whole – overdose prevention centers are a bridge to get us there.

See our fentanyl report to learn about more health-centered solutions to the overdose crisis.

Supervised Consumption Services