The Role of Overdose Prevention Sites in Coronavirus Response

Northeastern University School of Law Research Paper No. 374-2020

The Justice Collaborative

Data for Progress

Health in Justice Action Lab

8 Pages Posted: 22 May 2020 Last revised: 3 Nov 2020

See all articles by Sterling Johnson

Sterling Johnson

Angels in Motion

Leo Beletsky

Northeastern University - School of Law; Northeastern University - Bouvé College of Health Sciences; Division of Infectious Disease and Global Public Health, UCSD School of Medicine

Date Written: May 7, 2020

Abstract

The coronavirus pandemic has compounded North America’s overdose crisis. Just in the United States, drug overdoses have already claimed nearly a half million lives since 1999. Now authorities across the country are reporting a surge in overdose deaths as part of the pandemic fallout, with fatality rates rising by 100% in some counties. By disrupting treatment and harm reduction services, triggering economic shocks and trauma, and severing social support networks, the pandemic is undermining any progress being made in overdose prevention. At the same time, people who use opioids and other drugs are especially vulnerable to coronavirus infections and severe disease because of health and structural stressors.

In responding to these overlapping public health emergencies, we must draw on the full spectrum of science-driven prevention measures. Such measures include rapid scale-up in access to critical overdose prevention medications, including methadone, buprenorphine, and the opioid antidote naloxone. But we must also expand the limited toolkit of overdose prevention efforts in the United States to include overdose prevention sites.

Keywords: Coronavirus, COVID-19, overdose, opioid

Suggested Citation

Johnson, Sterling and Beletsky, Leo, The Role of Overdose Prevention Sites in Coronavirus Response (May 7, 2020). Northeastern University School of Law Research Paper No. 374-2020, The Justice Collaborative, Data for Progress, Health in Justice Action Lab, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3607946

Sterling Johnson

Angels in Motion ( email )

Leo Beletsky (Contact Author)

Northeastern University - School of Law; Northeastern University - Bouvé College of Health Sciences ( email )

416 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
United States
617-373-5540 (Phone)

Division of Infectious Disease and Global Public Health, UCSD School of Medicine ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
MC 0507
La Jolla, CA 92093
United States

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