'We need to do something different': UK gets first legal drug injecting room

27 September 2023, 08:46 | Updated: 27 September 2023, 12:02

A drug user in Scotland prepares their next fix
A drug user in Scotland prepares their next fix. Picture: Getty

By Kit Heren

Drug users will be able to take illicit substances legally in a dedicated room for the first time in the UK.

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The consumption room for illegal drugs in Glasgow was approved on Wednesday. Drug users will be able to take illegal substances like heroin and crack cocaine in a hygienic environment and with supervision from healthcare professionals.

Some 400-500 people are known to inject drugs regularly in public places in Glasgow, which is illegal, unhygienic and anti-social.

A doctor who will help run the facility said that evidence from around 100 other drug consumption rooms around the world showed that they made a positive difference and helped drug users get treatment.

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The facility
The facility. Picture: Alamy

"I think the case for this is as relevant now as it always was," Dr Saket Priyadarshi told the BBC.

A decision was made on the pilot facility at a joint meeting with local councillors and NHS officials.

People who took drugs in the room will be safe from prosecution: Scotland's senior lawyer has said that it is "not in the public interest" to pursue such cases.

Scotland has the most drugs deaths per capita in Europe. Some 1,330 people died of drug-related deaths in 2022, which fell to 1,051 last year. This is a massive increase on the 244 who died in 1996.

These shocking statistics have prompted a debate on how to solve Scotland's drug crisis.

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Scotland's Labour and Liberal Democrat politicians support the drug room policy, but the UK Home Office has consistently said that "there is no safe way to take illegal drugs".

Elena Whitham, the SNP minister for drugs and alcohol policy, told the Scottish Parliament: "The war on drugs is over. No one won and the main casualties were not organised criminals but the poorest and most vulnerable."

Police said there was no easy fix to the problem of drugs and addiction.

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Deputy Chief Constable Malcolm Graham, head of local policing at Police Scotland, said: "We know that Scotland as a nation needs to do something different and, within the confines of the law, Police Scotland is going to be a part of that, working in partnership.

"We need to tackle the demand and we also need to tackle the harm."

He added: "There is no single answer to this problem that our nation faces."

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