Scotland to get U.K.’s first ever illegal drug “consumption room” in bid to tackle addiction

The Scottish city of Glasgow will soon host the U.K.’s first “consumption room,” where people can go to use illegal drugs in a controlled environment, in a bid to address Scotland’s long-standing problem with addiction. The facility will allow drug users to consume drugs including cocaine and heroin in a hygienic and safe environment under the supervision of health care professionals.

“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,” said the Glasgow City Integration Joint Board, which advises on community health and social care services.

Community Activist Offers Drug Addicts Safe Haven In Mobile Consumption Room
Drug users prepare cocaine before injecting inside of a safe consumption van set up in Glasgow, Scotland, Nov. 6, 2020.

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty

The idea has been discussed for years but can now proceed after Scotland’s senior police official made it clear that users would not be prosecuted for possessing illegal drugs at the facility, which will be part of an existing clinic in Glasgow’s east end.

Speaking to CBS News partner network BBC News, Dr. Saket Priyadarshi, who will run the project, said evidence from similar efforts around the world showed it was possible for such facilities to reduce harm and help users engage in treatment. 

“The case for this is as relevant now as it always was,” Priyadarshi said.

A study conducted after a 2016 outbreak of HIV in the city found there were approximately 400 to 500 people injecting drugs in public places in central Glasgow on a regular basis. 

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Despite the number of people dying from drugs falling to the lowest level in five years, Scotland still has the worst drug death rate in Europe.

“I welcome the news,” said Scotland’s drug and alcohol policy minister Elena Whitham. “We know this is not a silver bullet. But we know from evidence from more than 100 facilities worldwide that safer drug consumption facilities work.”

Scotland’s laws on illegal drugs have not changed, but attitudes in the country around how to address addiction have, with more lawmakers open to viewing it as a public health problem rather than a law enforcement issue. South of the border, in England, there have been no similar efforts to date to provide safe, supervised environments for drug users. 

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