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Independent Working Group urges British government to set up centres where drug users can inject under medical supervision to lower spread of HIV/AIDS
This approach has proved cost effective in other countries
“The Report of the Independent Working Group on Drug Consumption Rooms shows that the local populations do not need to worry about an increase in crime,” said Emmanuel Reinert, Executive Director of ICOS. “On the contrary, these spaces actually help to reduce public nuisance in the areas while sharply lowering health risks to drug users and the community at large.”
Spread of HIV/AIDS reduced
The Report, published this month, found that drug consumption rooms had an important impact on decreasing the drug-related health risks, anti-social behaviour and damage linked to drug consumption in public spaces. The Report also points to the UK’s high number of drug-related deaths, the highest in Europe. There is also a growing number of Hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS cases among new injecting drug users.
“It is vital that such serious health issues be tackled with rational and effective policies,” said Reinert. “Such spaces have been established in several European countries, and they have gone a long way in protecting drug users from death and disease, as well as protecting the community at large from drug-related damage.”
Less harm to the community
Areas surrounding consumption rooms have seen a significant fall in discarded needles in public places, as well as a drop in users injecting drugs in public.
“There is striking evidence that by establishing drug consumption rooms, not only do drug users get the help and attention they desperately need, local communities also benefit from decrease in drug-related damage, ” Reinert said.
Such public health-focused policies are more effective, both in terms of impact and cost, than more traditional policies which focus on law-enforcement, in counteracting drug-related health problems and crime, the Council said.
ICOS said that the British government has a responsibility to protect its citizens, and drug consumption rooms are key in addressing rising HIV rates in the drug-injecting community. The spread of HIV can be largely contained by providing users with a safe and clean environment in which to inject, along with sterile equipment and clean needles. Drug consumption rooms have been shown to prevent needle-sharing and improve the health of their users, without increasing drug use or crime in the surrounding areas.
Drug Consumption Rooms are typically located in urban areas where drug consumption is common. Users are registered and given sterile syringes and water with which to consume pre-obtained drugs in a safe and hygienic environment. Drug users can dispose of their used equipment safely, thus preventing potentially infected syringes to be left in public places. Medical staff are at hand should users require emergency treatment. Counselling services are also readily available to provide guidance and support for those users who seek help.
The IWG Report has based its conclusions and recommendations on evidence gathered in countries which have implemented Drug Consumption Rooms, such as Switzerland, Canada, the Netherlands and Norway.