• Thu. Jun 13th, 2024

Are drug consumption rooms a positive measure?

ByMelisa Saltoglu

Sep 29, 2023
image of the debate chamber in parliament

A new pilot project has been given the green light to allow a supervised drug consumption room to open in Glasgow city centre. The project plans to provide heroin users around Glasgow with a safe and supervised space to consume the drug, staffed by paid employees to consume the vice more cautiously. This is a bid to reduce the loss the cities addiction scene brings. The reduction is necessary as last month heroin related deaths amounted to over 100 in the centre alone, ringing alarm bells and pushing forward the plan for safer consumption.

The power struggle between Scottish and UK parliament is an on-going tug of war with the attitude to the drug epidemic not being an exception. The SNPs ambition to treat substance abuse as a public health matter clashes with the Tory government’s “war on drugs” approach which gained popularity in the 70s.

Drug use around Scotland has sharply increased in recent years with the rate of heroin involvement sitting at 3.4 in 2018 in England and Wales compared to 15.2 in Scotland. This adds an extra caveat to the clash of opinion between SNP and Tory governments and urges an accelerated response to drug consumption in Scotland specifically.

In this instance lord advocate Dorothy Bain KC amended the Misuse of Drugs act 1971 to allow the trial of this safer drug consumption room. That’s not to say all Scots are in favour of this more liberal approach. A letter published in The Herald bluntly outlines 7 reasons why the project is harmful including the argument that “there is no such thing as the safe consumption of hard drugs” and by suggesting that drugs can be safe as long as taken hygienically communicates the dangerous message that heroin itself isn’t harmful, thus removing any motivation to stop.

I agree that the basis of drug legislation should move away from criminal conviction and become more concerned with the public health impacts. Although, these open-minded policies need to be careful not to cause adverse effects and increase drug use rates. We have seen how the normalisation of vaping led to an increase in nicotine addiction within young people, those who never smoked to begin with. A product designed to help previous smokers transition to a healthier alternative only led to non-smokers jumping on the bandwagon and developing a previously dormant addiction. If falsely glamourised, safer
drug consumption rooms risk having the same effect.

41. The House of Commons sits for the first time in the new Parliament, following State Opening” by UK Parliament is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.