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Turning Point Scotland visit Dublin to hear about Irish plans for supervised injecting rooms

During December the news broke that the Cabinet in Ireland had agreed to introduce legislation which would allow medically supervised injecting centres to be set up under licensed conditions.

Colleagues from Turning Point Scotland, along with a delegation from Wales, visited Dublin to hear more about the plans.

Business Development Manager Alan Howard was among the team and describes the experience:

“Here was an opportunity to find out more from a country with strong ties to Scotland both culturally and importantly legislatively.

So last week, along with my colleagues Wendy and Christine we spent two days in the company of Tony, Marcus and Dawn from Ana Liffey Drug Project in Dublin and colleagues from Scottish Drugs Forum and from two organisations from Wales.

We spent the first afternoon on a walking tour of Dublin to see first-hand the evidence of public injecting in the city. 

I’d visited Dublin in November as a tourist. Here I was walking down the same streets but looking from a very different standpoint. Down alleyways to either side we found needles, wrappers and ampules and this despite the efforts of the city to clear up discarded paraphernalia and remove the bins which hide people from view.

We spent the next morning listening intently as Tony, Marcus and Dawn presented their case for medically supervised injecting centres and significantly their role in lobbying for and influencing the Irish Cabinets decision. On one level it’s a very simple case to make – presented with the  choice would you want someone to inject in an alleyway or an injecting centre?

However Ana Liffey are much more sophisticated in their arguments, believing that an injecting centre would improve the situation for everyone (individuals, local residents, local businesses, city council, health services, Garda etc) while not being the miraculous silver bullet. The evidence, drawing particularly from Sydney’s MSIC and other centres around Europe, is pretty compelling:

  • Reduced discarded paraphernalia
  • Reduced public drug use
  • No evidence of increase in drug use or frequency of injecting
  • Increased access to health and social care services
  • No increase in drug related crime
  • Reduced ambulance call outs to overdoses
  • No negative impact on local businesses, house prices etc

So what next? I don’t think Scotland, or Glasgow in particular, has yet had the level of discussion politically or publicly about whether medically supervised injecting centres have a part to play in how we address issues of substance use and public injecting and that’s what needs to happen now – in our services, in the media and in our communities. We need to build the evidence, understanding and support before we start to answer the hard questions around location, funding and commissioning.

At Turning Point Scotland we will play our part, along with others, in informing and driving that discussion and if/when the time comes we will be ready and willing to provide one or more medically supervised injecting centres in Scotland.”