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| November 19, 2018

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Time to Rethink Drug Policy?

Time to Rethink Drug Policy?
Andrew O'Connor

Brighton and Hove was one of three cities which participated in a pilot scheme aimed at reducing the dangers of drug use by giving addicts medical grade heroin in dedicated ‘shooting galleries’ to investigate the impact of such spaces on neighbourhood crime and overdoses.

This is following a reported 56 drug-related deaths in Brighton and Hove between 2014 and 2015, which studies show could have been at least mitigated, and at most avoided, if the city were able to provide some kind of support to those afflicted with such dangerously harmful addictions.

Following a story which saw shop staff in Brighton’s Lanes regularly finding used needles and puddles of blood in doorways frequented by children and families, urgent action was called for by members of the Brighton and Hove community.

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas made a call for renewed debate on the benefits and introduction of safe spaces in which users can administer drugs to themselves in the safest way possible, and with minimal impact on the wider community, in a conversation with the Argus.

“I believe our city should revisit the idea of drug consumption rooms – safe and supervised places where addicts can inject or inhale illicit substances without fear of prosecution and with a much reduced impact on the community too. We urgently need better ways to reach out and save lives.”

The three year trial showed that 100 addicts visited clinics where they were given drugs, support and help with housing and social needs. Around three quarters of visitors reduced their use of dangerous street heroin, the average amount spent on drugs fell from £300 to £50 a week and the number of related criminal offences fell from 1,731 in 30 days to 547 in six months.

Following the trial there were calls for the project to be rolled out nationwide, but they never materialised.

An expert group made up of public agencies, including the police, probation service, the voluntary sector, the city council and NHS explored the feasibility of a drug consumption room in 2013.

But the proposal was widely criticised and shelved.

Earlier this year Durham Constabulary became the first police force in the UK to give addicts diamorphine – medical heroin – to inject in specially designated settings.

Not only do these kinds of schemes remove drug taking from our local streets, they take money from the drug cartels selling these dangerous substances whilst minimising the risk that those taking the drugs regularly face. This seems to me to be a no-brainer, so why do you think that the trials have yet to materialise into a coherent and cogent drug strategy?

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