Public support for safe consumption sites and syringe services programs to combat the opioid epidemicEmma E. McGinty, Colleen L. Barry, Elizabeth M. Stone, Jeff Niederdeppe, Alene Kennedy-Hendricks, Sarah Linden, Susan G. Sherman (2018)
We examine Americans' support for two evidence-based harm reduction strategies – safe consumption sites and syringe exchange programs – and their attitudes about individuals who use opioids. We conducted a web-based survey of a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults in July–August 2017 (N = 1004). We measured respondents' support for legalizing safe consumption sites and syringe services programs in their communities and their attitudes toward people who use opioids. We used ordered logistic regression to assess how stigmatizing attitudes toward people who use opioids, political party identification, and demographic characteristics correlated with support for the two harm reduction strategies. Twenty-nine percent of Americans supported legalizing safe consumption sites and 39% supported legalizing syringe services programs. Respondents reported high levels of stigmatizing attitudes toward people who use opioids: 16% of respondents were willing to have a person using opioids marry into their family and 28% were willing to have a person using opioids start working closely with them on a job, and 27% and 10% of respondents rated persons who use opioids as deserving (versus worthless) and strong (versus weak). Stigmatizing attitudes were associated with lower support for legalizing safe consumption sites and syringe services programs. Democrats and Independents were more likely than Republicans to support both strategies. Stigmatizing attitudes toward people who use opioids are a key modifiable barrier to garnering the public support needed to fully implement evidence-based harm reduction strategies to combat the opioid epidemic. Dissemination and evaluation of stigma reduction campaigns are a public health priority.