Supervised injection services: what has been demonstrated? A systematic literature review

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2014 Dec 1:145:48-68. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2014.10.012. Epub 2014 Oct 23.


Background: Supervised injection services (SISs) have been developed to promote safer drug injection practices, enhance health-related behaviors among people who inject drugs (PWID), and connect PWID with external health and social services. Nevertheless, SISs have also been accused of fostering drug use and drug trafficking.

Aims: To systematically collect and synthesize the currently available evidence regarding SIS-induced benefits and harm.

Methods: A systematic review was performed via the PubMed, Web of Science, and ScienceDirect databases using the keyword algorithm [("supervised" or "safer") and ("injection" or "injecting" or "shooting" or "consumption") and ("facility" or "facilities" or "room" or "gallery" or "centre" or "site")].

Results: Seventy-five relevant articles were found. All studies converged to find that SISs were efficacious in attracting the most marginalized PWID, promoting safer injection conditions, enhancing access to primary health care, and reducing the overdose frequency. SISs were not found to increase drug injecting, drug trafficking or crime in the surrounding environments. SISs were found to be associated with reduced levels of public drug injections and dropped syringes. Of the articles, 85% originated from Vancouver or Sydney.

Conclusion: SISs have largely fulfilled their initial objectives without enhancing drug use or drug trafficking. Almost all of the studies found in this review were performed in Canada or Australia, whereas the majority of SISs are located in Europe. The implementation of new SISs in places with high rates of injection drug use and associated harms appears to be supported by evidence.

Keywords: Drug consumption facility; Drug consumption room; Injection drug user; Safer injection facility; Supervised injecting center; Supervised injection service.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Drug Overdose / diagnosis
  • Drug Overdose / epidemiology
  • Drug Overdose / prevention & control
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Injections
  • Needle-Exchange Programs / methods*
  • Needle-Exchange Programs / trends
  • Substance Abuse Treatment Centers / methods*
  • Substance Abuse Treatment Centers / trends
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / diagnosis
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / epidemiology*
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / therapy*