TD’s call for supervised drug centres welcomed

A drug project has welcomed a statement from a government TD calling for supervised centres where people can inject drugs.

Fine Gael’s Catherine Byrne said medically supervised injection centres would provide a “legal, safe and sanitised environment” for drug users.

The Dublin South Central TD said such centres would “take the problem off the streets” and away from the public, who, she said, should not have to see people injecting drugs.

Ms Byrne said the facility would complement the work of the new Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, which has amalgamated the Garda National Drugs Unit and the Organised Crime Unit.

She said the bureau, with some 111 detectives attached to it, would help reduce drug related crime and target gangs operating both within and outside the country.

“It is also crucial that any crime prevention measures are complemented by drug treatment rehabilitation programmes for those who wish to get away from addiction and rebuild their lives.”

Ms Byrne supported moves by Ana Liffey Drug Project to try and set up a supervised injecting centre.

“I believe a medically-supervised injection centre in Dublin could complement the work of this new unit by providing a legal, safe and sanitised environment for drug users to inject.”

The project, which operates in Dublin, the midlands and the midwest, backed Ms Byrne’s intervention.

“We really welcome her statement, and she’s right in what she says,” said director Tony Duffin. “Medically-supervised injecting centres can’t work in isolation. These must be part of a wider system and must work hand-in-hand with gardaí.”

He said medically-supervised centres would be part of treatment and rehabilitation services. “They treat people with dignity and respect, it is somewhere safe and therapeutic, the centres provide an opportunity to get users into treatment and rehabilitation and it is also safer from a community perspective.”

Mr Duffin said he had recently returned from Sydney where he witnessed the work of a supervised centre.

“It was excellent and I did not see any evidence of public injecting in the area,” he said. He said the project was funded, along with other treatment programmes, by the Australian equivalent of the Criminal Assets Bureau.

The project has been working with the Bar Council in drafting proposed legislation which could legally underpin a facility in Ireland.

“It would require primary legislation which would permit people to legally take drugs in a particular situation, under licence to one particular service,” he said.

In 2005, the Government’s drug advisory body recommended that injecting rooms be considered, particularly for homeless heroin users.

It said the facilities might allow more hygienic injecting practices and reduce street-based injecting and overdoses.

A 2010 report by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction said drug consumption rooms improved drug users’ access to health and social care and reduce public drug use. It said there were over 90 such rooms across the world, including in Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Germany .

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