Drug Injecting Rooms – not a stand-alone solution. Overall, we believe that harm reduction should only be used as part of the continuum of care rather than as a stand-alone solution. The experience of MSIRs in Australia and North America demonstrates that offering a location for people to safely inject drugs without having it actively linked to a referral system leads to even more dangerous situations, such as a high risk of overdose, higher drug use, and increased profit for drug dealers. Based on the research, we can only conclude that providing a safe location to inject drugs is not the ultimate solution. It is contradictory to offer access to drugs to only then have to intervene with naloxone to reverse overdose. The report clearly shows that MSIRs have become an environment in which drug users feel they are able to “safely” experiment with different types of drugs, leading to exponentially higher.
Regina Mattsson Secretary General World Federation Against Drugs(WFAD) made to the President of the International Narcotics Control Board 2021
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Last week Scotland’s leading law officer, the Lord Advocate, brought a shuddering halt to a proposal from Glasgow City Council to develop a safe injecting centre in the city. Such a centre would have required a change in UK drug laws to enable individuals in possession of illegal drugs to use those drugs within the centre without fear of prosecution. Supporters of this initiative will be disappointed by the outcome, but they need to recognise that the provision of some level of legal protection covering the possession of illegal drugs within the injecting centre would also, by implication, need to be extended to all of those who might claim, legitimately or otherwise, that their drug possession should be green-lighted because they were en route to the injecting centre. In effect, such an initiative would deliver what many of its supporters actually desire – the legalisation of illegal drugs within at least some part of the UK.
In his judgement, the Lord Advocate has not ruled against setting up a centre where doctors can prescribe opiate drugs to addicts. Rather he has simply pointed out that he is not prepared to offer legal protection to a centre where illegal drugs are being used. The Glasgow proposal sought unwisely to tie the proposal for a doctor-led heroin prescribing clinic, which would be legal, with a setting where individuals are allowed to use illegal drugs which would break UK drug laws. There will be many who rightly question the wisdom (and the cost to the public purse) of linking those two proposals.
Gary Christian, secretary for Drug Free Australia, claims the arrival of mobile injecting vans is a desperate measure that will not change the number of overdoses or overdose deaths in the area. “Tracking of overdose deaths in the Kings Cross area from five years before the room opened compared with the nine years after the room was opened showed no change in the percentage of deaths in the area,” Mr Christian said. Shane Varcoe, spokesman for the Victorian-based Dalgarno Institute, said any enterprise that enables, empowers or equips ongoing illicit drug use has already breached best healthcare practice. “Harm reduction can never be about the support of ongoing, health diminishing substance use,” Mr Varcoe said. “Caring, responsible and civic minded clinicians and policy makers will always be focused on movement toward exit from, and cessation of drug use. “Mechanisms that enable any government agency to send a message to the community that we are not only supporting, but enabling taxpayer funded illicit drug use, not only breaches care for the illegal drug user, but breaches international conventions.”
THE Victorian government is continuing to oppose safe injecting rooms despite the peak doctors' lobby group campaigning for change.
Australian Medical Association (AMA) Victoria president Stephen Parnis says it is time to trial safe injecting rooms in Melbourne because their use will save lives and minimise the social harm of illicit drug use.
But Community Services Minister Mary Wooldridge has restated the government's opposition to the proposal.
"The government does not support the establishment of injecting rooms," she said in a statement on Tuesday.
"Our harm reduction priorities are focused in other areas, including the significant expansion of pharmacotherapy services, with the doubling of the budget and expanding needle syringe programs in areas of particular need."
Dr Parnis said safe injecting rooms had the capacity to cut the number of deaths from drug overdoses, reduce ambulance call-outs and hospital admissions, lift patient outcomes and improve public order.
"Supervised injecting facilities have worked to reduce harm in Sydney's King's Cross and we're hopeful they can do the same in Melbourne's drug hotspots," he said.