Experts have joined forces to call for clinics to be set up where drug users can inject in a supervised setting

12 Dec 2021

Senior doctors, public health specialists, drug experts and health charities want the government to approve trials of “overdose prevention centres” (OPCs) to cut Britain’s soaring toll of drug deaths. Supporters of the idea say that while letting users consume hard drugs in safe places, watched over by nurses and doctors, is controversial, it reduces fatalities and drug-related crime.

Drug-related deaths hit a new record of 5,900 in Britain last year. There were 4,561 in England and Wales. Almost half of such poisonings involved opiates, including heroin, and 777 deaths involved cocaine. “Urgent action is needed to tackle the spiralling rates of drug deaths across the UK. Drug deaths are avoidable and it is unacceptable that we see evidence-based actions to prevent harm such as OPCs go unutilised in the UK,” the statement says. 

Drug consumption rooms have been used in many European countries since the emergence of Aids in the 1980s as a way of reducing diseases associated with drug use. The Netherlands has a network of several dozen, Germany has more than 20 and there are others in Spain, Denmark and Switzerland. At most centres, staff give addicts needles to reduce infection risk, offer counselling, encourage users to seek treatment and step in if someone overdoses.

However, the government made clear it would not permit even a trial of the facilities. “We have no plans to introduce drug consumption rooms and anyone running them would be committing a range of offences, including possession of a controlled drug,” a spokesperson said.


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