Difference Between Supervised Consumption Sites and Overdose Prevention Sites

difference between supervised consumption sites and overdose prevention sites difference between supervised consumption sites and overdose prevention sites

Supervised Consumption Site (SCS)

Supervised consumption sites are places where people who use drugs can bring their substances to consume in a safe space attended by medical and support staff. They do not provide drugs nor substances to individuals. They are designed to be long term and comprehensive in their approach; therefore, they include a wide range of services including drug checking (to detect unexpected chemical compounds), emergency medical care in the event of an overdose, basic health services such as wound care, testing for infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis C, access to sterile drug-use equipment, and a place to safely dispose of it after use. They also include education on the harms of drug use and safer consumption practices, as well as referrals for and information on health and social services, including drug treatment, housing, mental health, and social and welfare programs.

Booths with mirrors separated by dividers
Insite, North America’s first sanctioned supervised consumption site

The goals of an SCS are to prevent overdose death and infectious disease transmission, facilitate entry into drug treatment, connect people to health and social services, and reduce public disorder. An SCS can be integrated into existing health and social services, it can be a standalone service, or it can be a mobile service catering to a smaller number of people spread across a wider distance. Depending on the site, an SCS may permit injection, inhalation (smoking), or oral (pills) and intranasal (snorting) modes of consumption.

Supervised consumption sites are approved federally by Health Canada. Service providers who wish to open and operate one must receive an exemption under section 56.1 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) in order to operate an SCS for medical purposes.

  • Current list of all supervised consumption sites in Canada
  • Map of supervised consumption sites and harm reduction providers in Canada
  • Application process for supervised consumption sites

Overdose Prevention Site (OPS)

Overdose prevention sites (also referred to as Urgent Public Health Need Sites) are temporary locations where people who use drugs can consume substances in the presence of trained staff who can provide emergency medical care if needed. Frontline staff monitor people after they consume and can administer naloxone or other life-saving responses in the event of an overdose.

Two white tents in a park
Moss Park temporary overdose prevention site; 2018

Overdose prevention sites are typically set up by volunteers and community-based health and social organizations. They are meant to be a rapid response to an urgent health need; therefore, the application process to open and operate one is not as complex. In December 2017, Health Canada announced it would give temporary class exemptions to provinces and territories to open overdose prevention sites after recognizing the urgent public health need. Along with being temporary in nature, overdose prevention sites operate with limited structure and are generally more accessible for people who use drugs because they are often staffed and run by peers.

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The Regulation Project is an international collaboration to advocate and educate for the legal regulation of drugs.