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Scottish MPs urge UK government to allow drug consumption rooms to be piloted in Scotland

There are plans to pilot the use of supervised drug consumption rooms in Glasgow, but drug laws, including the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, need to be amended first.

Drug consumption rooms offer a safe place with sterile needles to reduce spread of disease among drug users.

Source: Shutterstock.com

Drug consumption rooms offer a safe place with sterile needles to reduce spread of disease among drug users.

Scottish MPs are urging the UK Government to either relax drug laws or devolve relevant powers to the Scottish Government to allow supervised drug consumption rooms (DCRs) to be piloted in Scotland.

There are plans for a pilot in Glasgow but drug laws, including the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, need to be amended to protect the people who supervise the rooms and the users who bring their drugs to administer in a safe environment.

The majority of MPs in Scotland have signed a cross-party letter requesting leave for the pilot to go ahead. A debate on the issue took place at Westminster Hall at the Houses of Parliament on 17 January 2018.

Scottish Nationalist Party MP for Inverclyde, Ronnie Cowan, told the debate that drug deaths in Scotland were increasing, showing that current approaches to tackling abuse were failing and that something different was needed.

DCRs provide sterile needles to reduce the spread of HIV and hepatitis C, signpost users to services and reduce the number of needles discarded in public places, Cowan said, adding that they have been successfully set up in other countries, including the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Spain and Australia.

“No country that has adopted DCRs has ever regretted it and subsequently closed them,” Cowan explained. “Switzerland and Spain have closed DCRs, but only because the need for them reduced significantly — they were so successful that they put themselves out of business.”

Lloyd Russell-Moyle, Labour and Co-Operative MP for Brighton, Kemptown, told the debate that an independent report on DCRs in Sydney, commissioned by KPMG, found that there had not been not a single fatality among the 4,400 DCR attendees in ten years.

There had also been an 80% reduction in the number of ambulance call-outs relating to drug issues, and the number of overdoses in public locations had fallen by more than three-quarters, he said.

“The rooms provided 9,500 referrals to welfare services in the wider communities. Most importantly, they won the support of residents and neighbours.”

Home Office minister Victoria Atkins outlined the UK Government’s position in the debate.

“We have no intention of introducing drug consumption rooms, nor do we have any intention of devolving the United Kingdom policy on drug classification and the way in which we deal with prohibited drugs to Scotland,” she said.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2018.20204264

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