Insite Averts Between 2 and 12 Overdose Deaths Among Injection Drug Users

Vancouver, October 6, 2008 — Prompt medical attention in Insite, North America’s first supervised injection facility (SIF) has saved up to 12 lives a year over the past four years, according to a new study authored by the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BC-CfE).
The new study, published in PLoS ONE, examined how many overdoses in the facility would have resulted in a death had they occurred in the community. Between March 1, 2004 and July 1, 2008, 1,004 overdoses happened in Insite, with 453 resulting in a 911 call, an ambulance or the administration of naloxone, a powerful anti-overdose medication. None resulted in a death.

To determine the number of averted deaths, the authors analyzed data on overdoses from Insite. This involved examining the rate of overdose deaths from settings including the United States, Australia, England and Canada. Based on this evidence, a mathematical model was constructed that estimated the number of averted deaths was between 1.9 and 11.7 per year.

“These findings show that the medical care received by individuals in the facility reduces their risk of death and improves public health in the community,” said Dr. Thomas Kerr, Senior Researcher, BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS.

Overdose is a leading cause of death and disability among injection drug users in Vancouver and around the world. Since peaking at 240 deaths in Vancouver in 1998, the number of drug-induced deaths in the Downtown Eastside in the last five years has averaged approximately 35. Despite hosting a small percentage of the number of injections occurring in the DTES, Insite has averted a substantial proportion of the overdose deaths in the community since opening.

“Our findings, along with previous studies from Vancouver, Australia and western Europe, show that supervised injection facilities are effective and appropriate interventions in cities suffering from high levels of drug-related harms, including infection with HIV and death from overdose,” said Dr. Kerr.

For a full copy of the study or to request an interview with study authors, please contact Stephen Burega, media relations, at 604.506.3734 (cellular) or

About the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS
Founded in 1992 by St. Paul’s Hospital and the provincial Ministry of Health, the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS is a key provincial resource seeking to improve the health of people with HIV through the development, ongoing monitoring and dissemination of comprehensive investigative and treatment programs for HIV and related diseases. St. Paul’s Hospital is one of seven care facilities operated by Providence Health Care, Canada’s largest faith-based health care organization.