Legal drug-taking rooms ‘can reduce deaths’

The Government is being urged to consider introducing legal drug consumption rooms in a bid to reduce the number of drug-related deaths.

Drug-related deaths and litter have reached an all time high in the UK, with 3,744 deaths last year, according to a new report commissioned by the Drug, Alcohol and Justice Cross Party Parliamentary Group.

The report recommended a trial of drug consumption rooms to provide a safe, clean and legal space for users.

Lizzie McCullogh from drug policy think-tank Volteface, which wrote the report, told Sky News such a facility can legally work in the UK.

She said: “We know the evidence shows that drug consumption rooms can reduce drug-related deaths and drug-related litter and we know that both drug-related deaths and drug-related litter are on the rise.

“Now we have to turn to feasibility and what our report shows is that drug consumption rooms can be introduced in the UK and there are viable policy options.”

Belfast

Image: Belfast saw a 1474% rise in call-outs for the removal of drug-related litter

According to Volteface, there is a growing number of drug litter hotspots in the UK – areas of infected needles and syringes left by users in public areas such as parks and subways.

Needlestick injuries can lead to the transfer of infectious diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C.

Figures obtained by Volteface show Belfast saw a 1474% rise in call-outs for the removal of drug-related litter between 2013/14 and 2016/17.

Liverpool, Sheffield, Cardiff, Doncaster and Leeds also saw substantial increases.

The idea of drug consumption rooms is being welcomed by former users.

Carl Price used Class A drugs for nearly two decades and spent four years sleeping rough on the streets of Birmingham.

He has been clean for two years and now works to help those still using.

He told Sky News a safe place to take drugs would be a massive help for addicts, saying: “They’re going to do it (take drugs) anyway.

There is a growing number of drug litter hot spots in the UK, Volteface says

Image: There is a growing number of drug litter hot spots in the UK, Volteface says

“Maybe they’ll do it out on the streets in car parks or in blocks of flats, so to have somewhere safe gives us a chance to have some form of interaction with them.”

The idea is already being considered in Dublin and Glasgow.

Dr Saket Priyadarshi, associate medical director for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said: “The current situation is that people inject in alleys and back lanes and they inject in a rushed manner and in a high-risk manner.

“When there are consequences of that drug use there are no supports around there to manage things such as an overdose.”

Despite this, the Government rejects the idea of consumption rooms and told Sky News it has no plans to introduce them.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The UK’s approach on drugs remains clear – we must prevent drug use in our communities and support people dependent on drugs through treatment and recovery.

“We have no plans to introduce drug consumption rooms.

“A range of offences is likely to be committed in the operation of drug consumption rooms.

“It is for local police forces to enforce the law in such circumstances and, as with other offences of this type, we would expect them to do so.”