Drug use in business bathrooms: An exploratory study of manager encounters in New York City

Int J Drug Policy. 2017 Jan;39:69-77. doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2016.08.014. Epub 2016 Oct 18.


Background: Though public bathroom drug injection has been documented from the perspective of people who inject drugs, no research has explored the experiences of the business managers who oversee their business bathrooms and respond to drug use. These managers, by default, are first-responders in the event of a drug overdose and thus of intrinsic interest during the current epidemic of opioid-related overdoses in the United States. This exploratory study assists in elucidating the experiences that New York City business managers have with people who inject drugs, their paraphernalia, and their overdoses.

Methods: A survey instrument was designed to collect data on manager encounters with drug use occurring in their business bathrooms. Recruitment was guided by convenience and purposive approaches.

Results: More than half of managers interviewed (58%, n=50/86) encountered drug use in their business bathrooms, more than a third (34%) of these managers also found syringes, and the vast majority (90%) of managers had received no overdose recognition or naloxone training. Seven managers encountered unresponsive individuals who required emergency assistance.

Conclusion: The results from this study underscore the need for additional research on the experiences that community stakeholders have with public injection as well as educational outreach efforts among business managers. This research also suggests that there is need for a national dialogue about potential interventions, including expanded overdose recognition and naloxone training and supervised injection facilities (SIF)/drug consumption rooms (DCR), that could reduce public injection and its associated health risks.

Keywords: Harm reduction; Naloxone; Overdose; People who inject drugs; Public injection; Risk environment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Commerce / statistics & numerical data*
  • Drug Overdose / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • New York City / epidemiology
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / epidemiology*
  • Toilet Facilities / statistics & numerical data*