Coronavirus lockdown could lead to ‘a new generation of drug users’

29 September 2020, 16:31

Peter Krykant, owner of the UK’s first mobile safe drugs consumption facility
Peter Krykant, owner of the UK’s first mobile safe drugs consumption facility. Picture: LBC

By Fraser Knight

The owner of the UK’s first mobile safe drugs consumption facility has told LBC he fears the Covid-19 pandemic could lead to "a new generation of drug users."

Peter Krykant, who defied the law to set up a drug consumption facility inside a van in Glasgow has spoken out, as MPs get set to debate on whether to declare problem drug use a public health emergency.

Mr Krykant told LBC: “A lot of people who are intravenous heroin users and addicted to things like street valium – which are accountable for 80 plus deaths a year now in Scotland – those people come from deprived areas of poverty.

“The economic impacts [of the pandemic] may be felt on children – those are the future generation of drug users, those people and families who are getting driven into poverty now. It’s a worry.”

In the three weeks since Glasgow’s mobile drugs consumption van opened, Mr Krykant says he has heled 32 drug users to inject safely, with life-saving equipment on board the van for potential overdoses.

He says while police have been monitoring the van’s movements, officers have never stopped drug users from entering it and using the clean facility, which provides needles and a safe way of disposing them.

Mr Krykant added: “That’s 32 people had they overdosed who would not have died. That’s 32 needles which are not discarded on the streets of Glasgow.

“And it’s also 32 times that I’m very confident that nobody has contracted a blood-borne virus through sharing equipment or injecting in really dirty squalid conditions.

“The evidence [for using safe drug consumption rooms] cannot be ignored.”

On Tuesday afternoon, the SNP backbencher Tommy Sheppard will introduce a Bill to the House of Commons calling for provisions to be made for safe drug consumption rooms to be able to open in the UK.

With the backing of MPs from Labour, the Lib Dems, the Conservatives, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party, the Bill will also call on the Government to decriminalise the possession of small quantities of drugs for personal use and amend the Equality Act 2010 to recognise drug dependence as a health condition.

The Scottish Affairs Committee has also previously recommended problem drug use be declared a public health emergency.

Tommy Sheppard MP said: “The recommendations set out earlier by the Scottish Affairs Committee were as a result of solid evidence from those affected by drug use, academics, service providers, and others with significant expertise in this area.

“For the UK government to simply dismiss them out of hand is dangerous. A worrying number of people are dying from drug use – many of these deaths are entirely preventable, yet instead of taking a public health approach to the problem, the UK government continues to criminalise and stigmatise people.”

The UK Government has previously rejected the recommendations, saying it “does not accept that problem drug use is singularly a health issue” and uses a “balanced and evidence based” approach to tackle this, adding it is “determined to do more to help prevent” drug deaths across the UK.

On recommendations on safe drug-consumption facilities, the UK Government said primary legislation would be required and added: “We want to do all we can to stop people having access to drugs that could ultimately kill them.

“No illegal drug-taking can be assumed to be safe and there is no safe way to take them.”