‘Growing evidence’ backs injecting rooms; Facilities reach marginalised users and improve practices

There is “growing” evidence that drug consumption rooms are able to reach marginalised users, improve injecting practices, and reduce the visibility of public drug use, according to the EU drugs agency.

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction said there was an “increasing awareness” of the potential of such State-backed facilities to reduce harms to communities affected.

In a major report, Health and Social Responses to Drug Problems, the centre said it was important to consult and engage with communities where drug consumption rooms are to be located.

The findings come as the HSE, in consultation with the Department of Health, considers applications for the country’s first supervised injecting centre for Dublin.

The pilot facility — the result of a landmark shift in Government policy — is expected to be located in the south or north inner city, where much of the public injecting problem is located.

The legality of the centre, initially expected to open by the end of this year, is provided for under the Misuse of Drugs (Supervised Injecting Facilities) Act 2017, signed into law last May.

In its report, the European Monitoring Centre states: “Drug consumption rooms, sometimes known as supervised injecting facilities, can have benefits for communities as well as for people who inject drugs.

“There is evidence that they are effective at reducing harms to the local community, for example, from drug litter and public nuisance, as well as reducing the risks of overdose and infection among individuals who inject drugs.”

It says there is “growing moderate quality evidence” that drug consumption rooms are able to attract hard-to-reach drug users, especially marginalised ones who inject drugs on the street, under risky and unhygienic conditions.

It says there is moderate quality evidence that the rooms “increase safer injecting” and may reduce the transmission of blood-borne infections and the occurrence of overdoses.

The agency says there is similar evidence they “reduce the public visibility” of illicit drug use and drug litter, improving the amenity around urban drug markets.

It states that, as of last year, there were 90 such facilities in six EU countries (Denmark, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, and Spain) in addition to Norway and Switzerland.

It says they were usually located in areas where there is an open drug scene and injecting in public spaces.

“Their establishment was often opposed because of community fears that they would encourage drug use, delay treatment and aggravate open drug scenes,” it states. “However, there is increasing awareness of their potential to reduce harms to communities associated with public drug injecting such as drug litter.”

The report notes Ireland has a specific organisation, the National Family Support Network, which provides support to families affected by drug use and drug debt. It says some other countries had similar organisations, such as Adfam and Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs in Britain.

The report notes that the problem of drug debt and intimidation was part of the State’s drug strategy and that a specific project had been set up to tackle intimidation, involving gardaí and the National Family Support Network.

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