Although Winnipeg has yet to open any Supervised Consumption Sites (SCS), they have been a hot topic recently. There is a lot of stigma and uncertainty surrounding the topic – you aren’t alone if you have questioned how providing a space for the consumption of legal and illegal substances could be a good thing. Let’s shed some light on what a supervised consumption site wants to achieve.
The Goal of Supervised Consumption Sites
The first thing to understand about SCS is that they are based on a harm reduction model, which aims to do exactly what it sounds like: reduce harm. Harm reduction accepts and understands that certain activities take place in our society, and works to reduce the potential harm that can result from those activities. Often harm reduction is applied to substance use and sex, but it can be applied to other topics as well. An example of harm reduction is providing education about the use of cannabis in a non-judgmental way. On the other hand, using terms such as “pothead” to criticize and shame the individual would not be considered harm reduction.
Keeping the harm reduction model in mind, we can better understand the reasoning behind supervised consumption sites. The goal of a supervised consumption site is to reduce the potential harm that can occur from using drugs in unsupervised environments. They are a space where people can consume substances, without judgement, and with trained staff present. Some of the risks that supervised consumption sites work to reduce include:
the risk of accidental overdose
the risks associated with sharing needles, such as HIV transmission
the risk of accidentally consuming laced substances
The Benefits of Supervised Consumption Sites
More than just the people who visit supervised consumption sites can benefit from them. Supervised consumption sites also benefit the community by:
Allowing emergency medical services to work more efficiently by easing the weight of drug-related calls
Reducing improper disposal of drug equipment
Providing a link to social services, such as housing, employment assistance, mental health support, and treatment options
How Do I Consume Safely Without a Supervised Consumption Site?
There are many benefits to supervised consumption sites, but what can you do if they aren’t available if your area? Some general guidelines to consume safely include:
Tell someone you trust before you use in case of an overdose
Avoid needle sharing to prevent the transmission of infectious diseases
Avoid mixing substances
Start with a low dose if you are new to a substance
Check out the Healthy U resources on safer substance use here!
The ideas behind supervised consumption sites are straightforward: reduce the harm that can occur from substance use. There is no “model individual” for consuming substances – it looks different for everyone, and everyone has their own reasoning for consuming substances. What works for one person may not work for another – different strokes for different folks!
If you are concerned about your substance use, there are many resources in Winnipeg that you can access, including: