Inside the UK’s first-ever ‘drugs consumption room’ equipped with its own individual ‘shooting’ booths where addicts can inject heroin and take Class As under the watch of doctors
- Addicts can legally take drugs at £2.3m Hunter Street Health Centre, Glasgow
Pictures reveal inside the UK’s first-ever ‘drugs consumption room’ where addicts can use individual ‘shooting’ booths to legally inject heroin and take other hard substances.
Glasgow’s Integration Joint Board rubber-stamped plans today to open the £2.3million a year Hunter Street Health Centre in the east end of the city.
The pilot facility will see ‘drug kits’ will be handed out on trays with syringes and cotton wool to heroin users in clean hygienic conditions rather than on the dirty back streets and public places in the city, where they will be able to ‘shoot up’ under the watchful eye of trained health professionals.
Pharmacists kitted in scrubs, face masks, and rubber gloves will prepare the pharmaceutical grade heroin and measure out dosages before it is taken. While medics use vein finders to assist users.
Images show the booths separated with boards for privacy, while a mirror hangs on the wall above a metal table and a single blue-cushioned chair. A yellow container for used needles and syringes is attached to dividers.
Addicts using the Hunter Street Health Clinic, in Glasgow, will use individual booths where they can inject heroin and take Class A drugs without fear of being arrested
Pharmacists kitted in scrubs, face masks, and rubber gloves and pictured in 2019 preparing the pharmaceutical grade heroin before it is taken
A medical professional uses a vein finder to assist an addict. The pilot will see users take their own drugs under supervision of trained health professionals
The green light came on Wednesday after Scotland’s Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC announced it would not be in the ‘public interest’ to prosecute users of such a facility.
READ MORE: Scotland remains ‘the drugs-death capital of Europe’ despite numbers falling for the second year in a row with more than 1,050 users killed last year
First proposed in 2016 following an HIV outbreak in the city, which was linked to injecting, drug consumption rooms sparked years of political wrangling between the Scottish and UK governments. Although Westminster disagreed with the pilot scheme, it said it would not intervene.
It comes amid fears raised by Portland’s commissioner of public safety, Rene Gonzalez, warning Scotland to ‘avoid the tragedy we are going through’.
As exclusively revealed by the Mail on Sunday earlier this month, American officials issued an impassioned plea to the Scottish Government to ‘not make the same mistake we did’.
Comparisons have been made to Portland, in Oregon, decriminalising drugs in 2021.
However, they were forced into a climbdown just two weeks ago and forced to reimpose the drug ban due to concerns about increases in overdoses, deaths and property crime.
Commissioner Gonzalez said: ‘The amount of human misery is just brutal. It is truly horrific. Portland and Scotland share many values but the addictive qualities of these drugs are so brutal that it simply overwhelms your systems.’
Medical professionals will prepare a ‘drugs kit’ tray with a syringe, cotton wool, and a dosage of the drug
Dr Saket Priyadarshi (pictured), associate medical director of Glasgow alcohol and drug recovery services, at the Enhanced Drug Treatment Service in 2019 where the Hunter Street Health Clinic will be based
Hunter Street Health Centre, in the east end of Glasgow , will be the UK’s first sanctioned ‘drugs consumption room’ and will be approved by the Scottish Parliament today
There were 1,051 deaths in Scotland due to drug misuse in 2022, a drop of 279 from the previous year but still 2.7 times the rate south of the border and the worst in Europe. Pictured: The entrance of the existing site
Scotland has the worst drugs death rate in Europe, with 1,051 deaths drug misuse in 2022, a drop of 279 from the previous year – but still 2.7 times the rate south of the border.
The pilot was approved by health and council officials at the Glasgow City Integration Joint Board meeting this morning.
The board involves NHS and council officials and recommended approval of the scheme in a report.
The report states: ‘There is overwhelming international evidence which demonstrates that safer drug consumption facilities can improve the health, wellbeing and recovery of people who use the facility and reduce the negative impact that public injecting has on local communities and businesses.’
It highlights that following the HIV outbreak, an assessment ‘found there are approximately 400 to 500 people injecting drugs in public places in Glasgow city centre on a regular basis’.
Data from National Records of Scotland (NRS) showed there were a total of 1,051 deaths due to drug misuse in 2022 – a drop of 279, or 21 per cent, on the previous year.
It adds: ‘Injecting in public spaces increases the risk of infection and other drug related harms, and also causes a risk to the public from discarded injecting equipment and needles.’
READ MORE: Is it time for Britain to legalise drugs? Now ex-Tory minister demands shake-up of ‘cowardly’ rules to decriminalise substances such as cocaine, MDMA and ketamine following SNP’s call to loosen laws
Drug consumption room facilities typically provide users with sterile injecting equipment, counselling services before, during and after using, emergency care in the event of an overdose and referrals to social care and addiction treatment services.
Commissioner Gonzalez thought the facility in Oregon would help destigmatise drug addiction and reduce harm, but it was a position he and many citizens had been forced to rethink.
He said: ‘There is still broad consensus we don’t want to criminalise addiction, that it is to be viewed as a disease or a medical issue. But the part that has been very painful for Oregonians and Portlanders is we took away the prohibitions but we didn’t stand up quickly enough the support to get people into treatment.
‘So we kind of have the worst of both worlds: we don’t have anything disrupting self-destructive behaviours and we don’t have a strong enough support system.’
He continued: ‘We hear from citizens every day that they can respect someone’s body autonomy for their right to use, but they don’t want to see it in front of them, they don’t want to breathe it and they don’t want their kids to be exposed to it.
There are tensions, we want people to get treatment, we don’t want to criminalise addiction, but we also have rights for our common areas; they should be for everyone and not just folks that consume fentanyl and meth.’
Drug user Chris, 28, in Portland, Oregon, openly smokes crack cocaine downtown in the city
In a drug consumption room in Lisbon, it was said the most common substance being injected was a cocktail of heroin and cocaine – known as speedball.
Before Nicola Sturgeon quit as first minister she admitted her government had taken its ‘eye off the ball’ in regard to Scottish drug deaths.
Addressing a joint meeting of three Holyrood committees on Tuesday, Kirsten Horsburgh, the chief executive of the Scottish Drugs Forum, said the evaluation of the success of the Glasgow-based initiative should not delay more being opened in other parts of the country.
READ MORE: SNP’s soft touch drugs policy will end in more deaths – a devastating warning from the US city that decided to decriminalise drugs
‘We really welcome this news,’ she said.
‘The anxiety we have about it is we don’t want to see one facility introduced in Glasgow that prevents anywhere else in Scotland being opened until the service is evaluated.’
Ms Horsburgh also said the model introduced in Scotland’s biggest city should not necessarily be the same as those introduced elsewhere in the country.
She said: ‘It’s important when we are introducing these facilities that we have lots of different types.
‘So we could have mobile units, we could have fixed site units, we could have just a room within an area that’s already providing needle exchange facilities.
‘I would hope that we could not delay other areas by introducing this one.’
A £2.3 million consumption room is now planned for Hunter Street in the east end of the city, however Susanne Millar, chief officer of Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership, said there are still ‘operational challenges’ to overcome.
Portland is suffering from the fallout from a prescription opioid epidemic. It decriminalised drugs in 2021, but earlier this month was forced to reimpose the drug ban
She told journalists legal advice has been sought on the issue of people being arrested on their way to the facility, with Police Scotland and Crown Office colleagues playing a ‘key’ role in those discussions.
‘The work that we now need to do is the ongoing work with our colleagues in Police Scotland, and they’re really key partners for us,’ she said.
‘We will be working with them to address these very kinds of operational challenges – we will have a number of operational challenges and that will be one of our considerations.
READ MORE: SNP demands ALL drugs are decriminalised for personal use saying addiction is a ‘health’ issue not a matter for the courts
‘We will open the service with a full understanding of what the set of circumstances are.’
Dr Saket Priyadarshi, associate medical director at Glasgow’s Alcohol and Drug Recovery Services, however said there are ways around the issue, as exceptions currently exist to allow people to safely use injecting equipment services.
He said: ‘The number one issue for people using these facilities is they would be bringing illegal drugs into the facility, so they’d be concerned about the risk of prosecution.
‘We’re working with our colleagues in Police Scotland and the Crown Office around how best the policing response to this service would work.
‘We’ve still got a bit of the way to go around that but if you think of it at the moment, people use injecting equipment provision services and a whole range of other services in the city.
‘I think we would be asking that this service in the way that’s commensurate with other drug services as well.’
He said approval of the facility is a ‘really important moment’ for tackling drug misuse in the city, as it will give medical experts the ability to tailor rehab and housing support services to users’ needs.
Scottish ministers had demanded in July the decriminalisation of all drugs for personal use (file picture)
Some MSPs have raised concerns about the impact on the local area, including on businesses.
Appearing before the committee, Scottish Recovery Consortium chairperson Tracey McFall stressed the need to work with local communities in creating services.
‘We can’t do to communities, we have to take communities with us,’ she said.
READ MORE: Drug addicts are given free taxis to pick up their NHS heroin at treatment facility at a cost of tens of thousands of pounds to the taxpayer
‘There has been a number of examples over the years where there’s been residential rehabilitation service set up and there was local opposition but actually in some of those rehabilitation services the community actually engage.
‘It’s about demystifying some of the stigma that’s attached with this work.
‘We need proper consultation… we need to talk to the community, we need to acknowledge their fears and say ‘we get it, however there’s an evidence base across the world to say there’s not going to be that crime in that area, there’s not going to be an increase in drug use in that area’.’
She added: ‘My experience in developing services over the years is if you take the community with you, they get it.
‘But don’t just drop it in to say ‘this is happening in your area’ and I don’t think Glasgow are planning that.’
Simon Rayner, the service lead for Aberdeen Alcohol and Drug Partnership, said the creation of such facilities would require winning ‘the hearts and minds’ of communities, and ensuring they were properly staffed to avoid ‘incidents and spill-out behaviours’.
Scottish drugs minister Elena Whitham was due to appear before the joint committee meeting but was ill.
In 2021, former drug policy minister Angela Constance described the shocking death rate as a ‘public health emergency’.
Tory MSP Sue Webber said: ‘Drug deaths are Scotland’s national shame on the SNP’s watch and ministers are still failing to act with enough urgency.’
A Scottish Government spokesman said: ‘We are taking action to save and improve lives with an evidence-based approach, implementing policies we know work to reduce harm and deaths from drugs and focusing on getting people into support and treatment.’
Westminster’s Home Affairs Committee recommended pilots of safe consumption facilities in areas across the UK where local government and others deem there is a need, in a report published last month.
Home Office minister Chris Philp said previously the UK Government does not support such facilities in England and Wales, over concern they ‘condone or even encourage’ drug use, but added his department is ‘not going to stand in the way’ of the pilot in Scotland provided the power is exercised lawfully.
Last month, data from National Records of Scotland (NRS) showed there were a total of 1,051 deaths due to drug misuse in 2022 – a drop of 279, or 21 per cent, on the previous year.
While the number of deaths linked to drugs misuse is now at the lowest it has been since 2017, the NRS report made clear that the rate of deaths is still ‘much higher’ than it was when recording the data began in 1996.
It found that ‘after adjusting for age, there were 3.7 times as many drug misuse deaths in 2022 as in 2000.
Drugs and alcohol policy minister Elena Whitham said the decline shows policies like expanding residential rehabilitation were making ‘significant progress’.
But Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said the SNP should ‘stop talking about decriminalisation’, adding: ‘While these latest numbers indicate some progress is being made from an utterly catastrophic base, Scotland’s appalling fatality rate means we remain the drugs-death capital of Europe by an enormous and alarming distance.
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