Charities want consumption room for drug users in Glasgow

20 March 2019, 06:39

Drugs Heroin

The UK Government has been urged to devolve drugs legislation to Scotland so that a consumption room can be created in Glasgow.

Under current legislation, such a facility, which aims to prevent drug-related deaths and reduce HIV infection rates, would be illegal.

Drug Consumption Rooms (DCRs) are aimed at providing a safe environment for drug addicts to inject.

However, unless the UK's Misuse of Drugs Act is amended, addicts and staff working at a DCR could be arrested.

In a submission to Westminster's Health and Social Care Committee - which is carrying out an inquiry into drugs - four charities in Scotland set out the advantages of introducing a DCR.

The submission states: "DCRs are cost-effective, reduce public injecting, do not increase injecting frequency, drug use, or drug-related crime, and increase the uptake of social work and addiction services

"The introduction of a DCR in Glasgow could potentially reach 400-500 people that currently partake in public injecting - a particularly vulnerable population who face severe and multiple disadvantages and are disproportionately affected by health inequalities

"The legal barriers that are currently in place to a DCR in Glasgow could be solved by an exemption to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 to protect both people that inject drugs and the staff at such a facility."

Nathan Sparling, HIV Scotland chief executive, said: "The localisation of drug laws would allow the Scottish Government to respond far faster and in a far more relevant manner than the current legal framework allows.

"Allowing the Scottish Government to act in the best interests of its citizens in this instance makes perfect sense and we hope that the committee agrees."

Leon Wylie, Hepatitis Scotland lead officer, said: "With legislative control reserved to Westminster, it's important that they understand the actual issues affecting the people we work with and stand for.

"The international evidence base tells a positive story but at the moment Westminster is not listening."

Grant Sugden, Waverley Care chief executive, said: "The establishment of a DCR in Glasgow could play a really important part in addressing the huge health impacts of problem drug use.

"In particular, it would help tackle the transmission of blood-borne viruses amongst some of society's most vulnerable individuals."

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said: "A safer drug consumption facility would help save lives in Glasgow.

"Such facilities reduce accidental overdoses and syringe sharing - cutting the risk of HIV and other infections. They also cut risks to the general public by reducing the number of syringes and needles found in public places."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "As demonstrated by our support for Glasgow's proposals to introduce a safer medically supervised drug consumption facility, and offer heroin-assisted treatment, we are willing to back innovative, evidence-based approaches that can make a real difference.

"If the UK Government continue to block these proposals, we hope they will devolve the necessary authority over these matters to Scotland so we can take action that saves lives.

"Tackling stigma over blood-borne viruses is one of the top priorities of the Scottish Government - and one of the five high level priorities of our sexual health and blood borne virus framework."