Panel supports drug 'shooting galleries'

Drug consumption rooms should be given a trial in Britain, a panel of experts has said.

The independent working group, established and funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, suggested that the use of the rooms would help to reduce the number of fatal overdoses, as well as reduce drug use on the streets and reduce the number of needles discarded in public places.

Drug consumption rooms - also known as 'shooting galleries' - allow drug users to inject drugs in supervised, hygienic conditions.

There are around 65 drug consumption rooms in operation in eight countries around the world - Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Spain, Norway, Luxembourg, Australia and Canada - but none are in use in the UK.

The panel said that drug consumption rooms:
  • could avert drug-related deaths, prevent needle-sharing and improve the general health of users
  • could decrease injecting in public places and reduce the number of discarded, used syringes and drug-related litter
  • did not appear to increase levels of acquisitive crime
  • were not generally associated with public order nuisance or other problems especially with good interagency co-operation in place
  • are mostly used by local drug users
Chairperson of the independent panel, Dame Ruth Runciman, said: "Setting up and evaluating drug consumption rooms would be a rational and overdue extension to UK harm reduction policies. This approach would offer a unique and promising way to work with the most problematic users, in order to reduce the risk of overdose, improve the health of users and lessen the damage and costs to society.

"While millions of drug injections have taken place in drug consumption rooms abroad, no one has died yet from an overdose. In short, lives could be saved."

The report has been welcomed by drugs education charity Drugscope.

Chief Executive Martin Barnes said: "This carefully considered report will test the extent to which we are able to have an informed, rational and calm debate about drugs policy and reducing drug-related harms. A policy which can save lives deserves serious consideration however controversial it may seem at first.

"The international evidence in favour of piloting drug consumption rooms in the UK is strong and persuasive and we particularly welcome the emphasis on local agency working and engaging with local communities."


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