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Case for Glasgow drug consumption room among ‘strongest in Europe’

MPs at Westminster’s Scottish Affairs Committee heard from researchers as part of their inquiry into problem drug use in Scotland.

There have been proposals to introduce a drugs-consumption facility in Glasgow (Paul Faith/PA)
There have been proposals to introduce a drugs-consumption facility in Glasgow (Paul Faith/PA)

Glasgow has one of the strongest cases in Europe for introducing a drug consumption facility in the city centre, it has been suggested.

MPs at Westminster’s Scottish Affairs Committee on Tuesday heard from researchers from universities in Scotland as part of an inquiry into drug abuse in the country.

Glasgow City Council has supported the idea of a drug consumption facility, but moves to introduce one have been blocked by the Home Office.

Dr Andrew McAuley, from Glasgow Caledonian University, told MPs: “It’s important to acknowledge Glasgow’s case for a drug consumption room is arguably the most compelling Europe has seen,” Dr McAuley said.

“The HIV outbreak, drug death epidemic, largest botulism outbreak Europe has ever seen – there’s a whole host of reasons why Glasgow is a perfect case for the UK’s first consumption room.”

Dr McAuley pointed to a number of police officers across the UK as being supportive of drug consumption facilities.

Dr Emily Tweed, from the University of Glasgow, said that there is now over three decades’ worth of evidence which suggests the effectiveness of drug consumption rooms.

She said there were around 100 such facilities set up in countries worldwide including France, Germany, Spain, Denmark, Australia and Canada.

Dr Tweed said: “What these facilities are able to do is reach people most at risk of drug-related harms.

“They’re able to reduce the sharing of injecting equipment, which is the biggest risk factor for blood-borne viruses like HIV.

“They reduce levels of public injecting and drug related litter. So there’s really important benefits there for the local communities as well.

“What was interesting was that there was no apparent increase in crime or anti-social behaviour in the vicinity of these facilities and that public opinion actually tended to improve either the closer you were to the facility or the longer that it had been in place.”

Dr Tweed added that  facilities in Canada and Australia had proven to be cost-saving for the health service in the long run because of the averted blood and virus infections from overdoses.

Asked whether decriminalising drugs could potentially reduce problem drug use, researchers indicated their agreement that it could have a beneficial use.

Dr Tessa Parkes, University of Stirling, said: “Certainly the evidence I’ve seen, that I’m aware of from all the work I’ve done, makes me believe that we should be decriminalising personal drug use and possession.”

A spokeswoman for Glasgow City Council said: “The evidence presented at the Scottish Affairs Committee chimes with Glasgow City Council’s public health case for a Safer Drug Consumption Facility (SDCF).

“We agree there is compelling evidence that a SDCF in Glasgow will prevent drug deaths, stem the spread of HIV infection, reduce drug-related litter and save services millions of pounds each year.

“We will continue to make the case that harmful drug use must be treated as a public health issue as a matter of urgency.”

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