I have, for a number of years, been advocating the benefits of Drug Consumption Rooms as a humane approach to engaging with people actively involved in drug use. The names of such facilities change but whether you say Drug Consumption Room, Safe Consumption Facility or Overdose Prevention Centre, they are the same thing. But with the variety of descriptions, it’s easy to comprehend that we are talking about providing a safe facility where drugs can be consumed, and overdoses prevented! Why would anyone not want that? Why would anyone rather people were left to use in unsafe conditions with a high possibility of overdosing? Well, the UK Government does. Time and time again they have refused to take this discussion forward.
Last week, the Faculty for Public Health led a cross-sector call signed by 70 organisations for the UK Government to pilot Overdose Prevention Centres. In their own words they “are no longer prepared to accept the UK’s record number of drug-related deaths without implementing all available evidence-based interventions to save lives and protect health”. Among the 70 organisations are the Royal Colleges of Emergency Medicine, General Practitioners, Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Paediatrics and Child Health, Pathologists, Physicians, Psychiatrists, the Faculties of Intensive Care Medicine, Occupational Medicine, and Pharmaceutical Medicine.
And yet to date the Home Office are still refusing to even consider the possibility that these medical experts are better informed and better placed to identify solutions to a health issue. The Home Office minister, Kit Malthouse, admitted this week that he had never visited a DCR. Any legislation based on hubris and ignorance is poor legislation and its particularly reprehensible when the outcome is the unacceptable number of drug deaths we are experiencing across the UK. We can do better and there is a move to open DCRs in Scotland backed by a more compassionate approach from the Scottish Parliament and a different emphasis from the new Lord Advocate. When that happens, we must be ready in Inverclyde to ensure we are not passed by and a suitable facility is made available in our community.