RANTZ: Damning Study Shows Heroin Injection Advocates Are Dead Wrong


Cities like Seattle are actively pursuing heroin injection sites as a way to deal with the heroin epidemic that is impacting — and killing — scores of addicts, many of whom are homeless. Proponents of this idea have claimed for years that these “safe spaces” keep people alive and cut down on the sharing of needles (and the diseases associated with needle sharing).

A new study says these advocates are dead wrong.

The International Journal of Drug Policy published a damning new study that not only refutes talking points by Progressives, but also points out how deeply flawed some of the existing studies actually are. According to German Lopez of Vox:

One of the problems the review found is that the research is seriously lacking in this area. Out of the dozens of studies on the topic they found, the researchers concluded that only eight were rigorous and transparent enough to include in the review. With such a small pool of studies included, it’s possible — maybe even likely — that these few studies were in some ways biased, so future research could produce entirely different findings.

This was the first meta-analysis review on the topic.

Of the 40 studies on the topic, the researchers booted the weak studies, such as those with data that couldn’t be replicated. It left them with eight meaningful studies to review.

They found, based on this data, that heroin injection sites “had no significant effect on most outcomes…” like “ambulance attendances relating to opioid-related events, overdose mortality… borrowing or sharing syringes and injecting equipment, and problematic heroin use or injection” according to Lopez.

That so few meaningful studies exist should come as no surprise.

Often, advocates looking at Vancouver Insite, the heroin injection site cities like Seattle are modeling themselves after, claim there’s plenty of evidence to back up its effectiveness. But there isn’t.

One study that made the claim is highly controversial because the people who conducted the study were the ones in charge of the program. That’s a giant bit of bias, right?

Speaking of bias, perhaps that is what’s leading to one Seattle critic taking issue with this meta-analysis.

“That’s surprising,” Dr. Caleb Banta-Green, at the University of Washington, said of this new analysis to KIRO 7. “And then you dig into it and realize they’re doing a different type of study. And they’re looking at eight studies of four locations, even though there are more than 100 locations around the world.”

Indeed, that’s exactly what they’re doing. They’re doing it because the other studies provided subpar results to review. And this meta-analysis was solid, per Lopez:

The eight studies, though, were meant to be the best that the researchers could find. The studies that were excluded were those for which the researchers couldn’t get full data sets and which didn’t have comparison groups — fairly big methodological gaps.

This is typical in meta-analyses: The ideal is randomized controlled trials. But if none exist, researchers start looking at other kinds of studies, while maintaining some level of rigor, to tease out the evidence that is available.

And what the KIRO interview inadvertently left out is that Banta-Green was part of the task force recommending heroin injection sites be opened in Seattle. So this meta-analysis flies in the face of what he recommended. No wonder he’s taking issue with it.

And as I explained on my original article on this topic, his message appears to be shifting, at least in part.

“It (safe injection sites) may not help with mortality rates,” Banta-Green admitted to KIRO 7. “I suspect it does but it’s small.” But in March of 2017, Banta-Green pushed this idea as saving lives to the Seattle Times: “I believe there is fundamental value in keeping people alive.”

Only, it’s not keeping people alive. And now, not only is there evidence to suggest it, Banta-Green is acknowledging it may not save lives. I’m not willing to ruin any more Seattle neighborhoods; I don’t want them becoming what the neighborhood hosting InSite has become. I’ve been there. It’s horrible.

Is this the end-all, be-all of studies? Of course not. More studies are necessary and worthwhile. But it’s a quality study that Progressives will either ignore or refute because of their ideological blindness to anyone or anything that will say they’re wrong.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekdays 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. on AM 770 KTTH Radio in Seattle/Bellevue/Tacoma. Subscribe to the podcast here.