Safe Injecting Room for drug addicts.

Safe Injecting Room for drug addicts.

Despite evidence that safe injecting rooms prevent the spread of HIV and reduce overdose rates, the UK government repeatedly refuses to allow them.

This is another bonkers policy where conservatism flies in the face of reality.

Scottish HIV rates soar

This week the BBC reported, “A rise in cocaine injecting and homelessness are behind a 10-fold increase in HIV infection among drug users in Glasgow, research suggests. The Glasgow city centre outbreak is the UK’s largest in more than 30 years.”

Hard drug use among the homeless is endemic thanks to the person’s need for comfort from the hell and stress they live in. The problem is that clean needles and gear needed for the safe administration of the drug of choice are not available and are shared on a regular basis. It goes without saying that a needle that has been in someone with a nasty blood-borne disease and shared with someone without, can infect the previously clean person.

Safe Injecting Rooms

Photo of a sharp box for a Safe Injecting Room (SIR)

Would you prefer a used needle that potentially contains blood-borne diseases is put in one of these or do you agree with the government that it should be shared with other addicts?

Safe Injecting Rooms (SIRs) have been considered and rejected many times in the UK, despite the evidence that they can reduce blood-borne disease transmission rates and issues like overdosing. The SIRs in use around the world also have Naxolone, a medication that reverses the symptoms of OD and can save lives.

In May last year the US medical newspaper MedPage Today reported that several cities across the US were in the running to have SIRs. Raymond Chung, MD, chief of Hepatology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, told MedPage Today, “Experience from other countries with established programs has shown that supervised injection sites can contribute to reduced overdose mortality, reduced transmission rates of HIV and hepatitis, and increased access to drug treatment.”

There are currently around 100 around the world, which frankly might just be enough for the UK alone given their safety and efficacy.

UK rejects SIRs time and again

Even while HIV rates are hitting epidemic levels in Glasgow, the authorities refuse to allow even one SIR. The Scotsman reported in June last year, “Now, in a letter from the UK Government to the [Glasgow] council’s chief executive, the UK Government’s Drugs Legislation Team has confirmed ministers’ opposition to the plans. The Home Office drugs and alcohol unit has accepted safe drug injecting facilities can be effective in protecting both drug users and the public. But in response to Glasgow City Council ministers insisted they will not change the law to enable the setting up of drug consumption rooms (DCRs).”

In the UK where health problems affect the expenditure of taxes, SIRs could save millions of pounds for the NHS to spend on other things. However much the NHS is privatised every week, it is still free at the point of demand. This is why refusal of a network of SIRs is just costing the government money in the vast costs of HIV and Hepatitis C treatments that might otherwise be spent on cheaper drug treatments and mental health services – the two failing services that frequently lead to people self-medicating themselves to death on hard drugs.

Time for a rethink on all drugs?

Feed The Birds is a cannabis campaign but we work with people who run campaigns on all drugs. If the entire drugs policy was made one of a public health issue instead of a criminal justice issue then we may see a transformation of society as a whole.

What if heroin was prescribed? That is more legal than SIRs in the UK – with horribly strict Home Office conditions it is possible to prescribe heroin here. Those cities that have seen massive falls in hard drug problems such as acquisitive crime and the costs of health problems associated with dodgy gear. The BBC found that 120 addicts were prescribed heroin and cocaine in London in 2011, an investigation that led to the system being shut down. This is despite it finding, “Supporters say prescribing diamorphine – pure heroin – stops them committing crime to feed their habit. They argue a regular supply of pure heroin means addicts can build a stable life and find employment.”

Tory drugs policy is a mess thanks to ill-founded personal beliefs flying in the face of reality. Isn’t it time they woke up and helped people instead of criminalising them? Conservatism is a philosophy of hate – hating the poor, hating the disabled and generally being public school bullying pricks. That’s one of the core reasons you will always see me vote for a left wing, loving philosophy and never one of hate.

Richard Shrubb

Richard is a marijuana, water sports and electric vehicles writer based in Dorchester, Dorset. Living in Prince Charles model housing estate, Poundbury, he is an avowed republican, community and Labour Party activist. Visit his website at for more about what he does.

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