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Public interest in supervised injection sites in the US following the opening of two clinics: an infodemiological study and time-series analysis of Google Trends

Perkins, Del
Wilkins, Rachel
Weygandt, Jonas
Dunn, Kelly
Hartwell, Micah
Purpose of Research: In Oklahoma, over 3,000 individuals died of overdose from 2014-2017. Supervised injection sites have reduced overdose deaths by 35% in surrounding neighborhoods and increase the participation in substance use treatment programs by more than 30%. By approaching substance use in a holistic manner and considering treatment options and disease prevention strategies currently outside of the norm in the United States, research supports initiation of SIS improve the lives and outcomes of persons using IV drugs.
Research Question: Our objective for this study was to analyze the public interest in supervised injection sites and dispel misconceptions to reveal benefits of such strategies.
Methods: Using Google trends, we searched for the topic “supervised injection sites” from 2019-2021 to collect relative search interest (0-100). An autoregressive integrated moving average model (ARIMA) was used to forecast the values of search interest if the court decision to legalize SIS in Philadelphia in February of 2020 through June did not occur. We then calculated the percent increase in search interest immediately (1 week) following the ruling.
Results: Observational analysis of the plotted data, the largest peak occurred in February 2020 when a US district judge declared that the SIS could be legally opened in Philadelphia. The forecasted value the week after this ruling was 6.95 (95%CI: -2.86 - 16.76), compared to the peak (100) RSI. The difference in these values was 93.04 (83.24-102.86) representing a percent change of 1338.85%. A second peak occurred in November 2021, when New York City opened their first legal SIS. Given current interest in such programs, future peaks are likely as more SIS sites open in the United States.
Conclusions: We found that following the court ruling, and opening of SIS, search interest in these facilities significantly increased. Given the novelty of the SIS within the US, their media coverage, and the stigma surrounding IV drugs and those who use them, it is necessary to provide information to the public that demonstrates the benefits of these facilities—reduced overdose deaths and related crime, improved quality of life, and increased uptake of treatment— especially in the midst of the current opioid crisis