MP urges ministers to allow legal drug consumption rooms

14 March 2018, 08:44

Drugs Heroin

Ministers have been urged to back legal drug consumption rooms in a bid to help end the "damaging" status quo for addicts and the public.

SNP MP Alison Thewliss wants to introduce legislation paving the way for the UK's first facility which would involve trained staff supervising people as they take illicit drugs they have bought, with medical support available.

Glasgow has been identified as a location for such a "supervised drug consumption facility", and Ms Thewliss's proposal aims to change the Misuse of Drugs Act to protect staff who work in them and organisations involved in them from prosecution.

An estimated 400 to 500 people potentially inject in public places in Glasgow city centre on a regular basis, according to an NHS report, with Ms Thewliss insisting action is needed as the current approach only sees addicts moved around the city rather than being helped.

She added it will give those using drugs the opportunity to access support and treatment, and boost their chances of having a better life.

The Glasgow Central MP will seek to introduce her Supervised Drug Consumption Facilities Bill to the Commons on Wednesday, which would give it the chance of further debate at a later time.

Ms Thewliss told the Press Association: "I'm not prepared to put up with the status quo as it is because it's damaging for everybody.

"I meet constituents who have folks shooting up at the back of their house, in their bin shelters, regularly, every day, and they're having to pick up needles, they're having to deal with the mess, their children can't go out to the car or can't use the back garden.

"For the folk injecting drugs and their family, it's a horrendous situation as well because they don't want to be in somebody's bin shelter taking drugs. There's no dignity to that.

"There's no privacy to that, and there is an indication what people injecting in the street want is a wee bit of privacy... they're seeking somewhere which is a wee bit more private to do that, and what this proposal would give is some dignity for those people as well."

Ms Thewliss said she believes changing this would enable those who are using drugs to visit somewhere safe.

She added: "By not giving them some kind of service and support, it costs more in terms of emergency hospital admissions, it costs more to members of the public in terms of having to get that cleaned up - I have constituents getting charged for the pick-up of needles from the property, and they're going 'Why should I be charged for that? It's not my fault, I didn't put it there'."

Ms Thewliss cited a HIV outbreak in Glasgow and the associated treatment costs, noting: "If you can bring people into a service they're much less likely to contract HIV or Hepatitis C or any of the other blood-borne viruses that are very, very expensive to treat.

"So there's a cost in doing nothing, that's absolutely clear."

On how her Bill will enable a supervised facility to emerge, Ms Thewliss explained: "The sticking point to the facility is because it allows people to bring in their own drugs rather than being prescribed drugs - and there is a prescribed drug element to what they're proposing as well.

"There needs to be permission, an exemption to the Misuse of Drugs Act to protect the staff that are working in there, to protect the health and social partnership and all the partners in there from prosecution."