According to media reports a drug consumption van organised by community activists began operating in Glasgow last week.
Drug consumption facilities are spaces in which people can use drugs obtained themselves under the medical supervision of trained staff. By providing clean needles and promoting harm reduction behaviours, such facilities have been proven in countless studies to be effective at decreasing the risk of overdose and reducing the transmission of blood-borne viruses such as hepatitis C. However, under current legislation (namely the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971), drug consumption facilities are illegal.
The Hepatitis C Trust has long advocated for safe injection sites such as drug consumption rooms as an evidence- and health-based approach to addressing drug-related harms. There are already many in operation across Europe, such as in Germany where there are 24, and there is thirty years’ worth of evidence demonstrating their benefit in restricting the transmission of blood-borne viruses and engaging highly marginalised populations with healthcare and social services.
Recent figures have shown the largest number of drug-related deaths in Scotland since records began and for the past three years Glasgow has been experiencing a worsening HIV outbreak, leading to an increased interest in introducing a pilot drug consumption room in the city. Modelling by HIV Scotland, Hepatitis Scotland, Waverley Care, and Glasgow City Council last year found that the introduction of a drug consumption room in Glasgow could reach 400-500 people who currently inject drugs publicly, creating a link to a particularly vulnerable population who face severe and multiple disadvantages. It is The Hepatitis C Trust’s position that the UK Government should urgently consider a strategically placed pilot drug consumption facility to tackle the soaring number of drug-related deaths in Scotland.
Drug consumption facilities have been recommended by numerous inquiries in recent years, most recently by Westminster’s own Scottish Affairs Committee. Today, the Committee published the Government’s response to its recommendations, commenting, “We are surprised and disappointed by the government’s almost wholesale rejection of recommendations by a Westminster Select Committee.” The Hepatitis C Trust responded to the Committee’s call to evidence last year and our submission can be read here.
The Hepatitis C Trust’s Chief Executive Rachel Halford said: “It should not take a private individual and crowdfunding campaign to get an evidence-based public health intervention on the streets, particularly in the context of drug-related deaths being at their highest since records began in the early 1990s.
“We urge the UK Government to follow in the footsteps of many other countries in line with three decades of evidence to support the trial of a legal, evidence-based drug consumption facility in this country.”