Cross-party support for introduction of drug consumption rooms across the UK

Calls for medically supervised drug consumption rooms (DCRs) have garnered cross-party backing from MPs after the publication of a new report calling for their introduction across the UK.

The report from the Adam Smith Institute – a think-tank – Room for improvement: How drug consumption rooms save lives, has received cross-party support from Conservative, Labour, SNP, Liberal Democrat, and Green MPs as well as crossbench Lords, showing the breadth of support from across Parliament to introduce Drug Consumption Rooms and reduce the number of deaths from drug overdose.

In an open letter published by The Telegraph, the MPs say that “Communities are being ripped apart, criminal networks are profiting, and thousands of people are dying every year,” before going on to say that “Drug consumption rooms are an evidence-based harm reduction intervention which allows people who use illicit drugs to do so within a medically supervised environment.”

According to the Adam Smith Institute, the UK has fallen behind other western countries in harm-reduction drug policy with 10 countries (including Denmark, Canada, and France) already extensively offering the service with dramatically positive effects.

The report states that the need for DCRs in Scotland is of particular importance. The country saw 934 people die of drug overdose in 2017, a fifth of the UK’s total drug-related deaths that year—a drug death rate nearly fifty times larger than Portugal’s.

In Glasgow, moves to set up a drug consumption were blocked by the Lord Advocate under current rules. However, James Wolffe QC made clear that he could back them if Westminster could set out a legal framework for them to operate under.

The Adam Smith Institute suggests that an explicit statement by the Home Office devolving decisions over DCR operation to local authorities, health bodies, police and crime commissioners, and the Crown Prosecution Service could allow their implementation. Or, they argue, the UK Parliament passing legislation could explicitly provide a legal framework for the service.

Speaking in the open letter, a number of MPs expressed their views over the introduction of DCRs.

Crispin Blunt MP (Conservative), said:

“Illicit drugs destroy communities, drive crime and cause deaths. Drug consumption rooms are a proven, evidence based approach to drug policy which minimises harm by providing a safe environment, clean needles, and access to healthcare and treatment services.

“As human beings we must do all we can to help others in a wretched state with serious addictions, not leave them to die on the streets. The international evidence is that drug consumption rooms reduce overdoses and save lives. They also reduce public drug use and associated nuisance to the benefit of victims of drug-users; drug-related infections, saving state health and criminal justice services millions of pounds; and the number of drug users by targeting often difficult and hard to reach individuals with treatment, advice and social services.

Lord Ramsbotham, crossbench Lord and the co-chair of the Drugs, Alcohol and Justice Cross Party Parliamentary Group, said:

“The Drugs, Alcohol and Justice Cross Party Parliamentary Group have discussed Drug Consumption Rooms and think that all the evidence, including the findings in support of a Glasgow pilot, supports their introduction.

“Many other countries have had success with DCRs, which have been shown to reduce overdose deaths and improve access to recovery services: especially for drug users who are more difficult to reach. Establishing a legal framework for their operation, or at the very least giving supportive local authorities the green light to trial DCRs, is sorely needed.

Jeff Smith MP (Labour), said:

“Drug consumption rooms are an important component of a harm reduction approach to addiction. They are a proven intervention to save lives, reduce syringe litter and public injection, and provide at-risk individuals with access to advice and recovery services. The Government must act to let drug consumption rooms be established where they are needed. We have to reduce the suffering and danger for addicts, and create a safer environment for the wider public.”

Ronnie Cowan MP (SNP, vice-chair of APPG on drug policy reform) said;

“I find it hard to believe that anyone could read the Adam Smith Institute report on Drug Consumption Rooms and not come to the conclusion that the United Kingdom’s drug policy is deeply flawed and that Drug Consumption Rooms are not just desirable but necessary as a key component to tackle problematic drug use in our society. The report is evidence based and heavily referenced. I would implore all elected members to take the time required to read it.”

Click here to read the report in full.

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