The Home Office has to give up its opposition to safe injection rooms if it wants to reduce drug-related deaths, now at record levels, a former drug chief has said.
David Nutt, chairman of the Advisory Council on Drug Abuse, said the failure to respond to last week's revelation that drug deaths were at its peak since records began in 1993 would constitute "a deliberate breach of evidence". Statistics show that drug poisoning deaths increased by 16% last year, representing the steepest increase year to year. However, the Home Office refuses to sanction safe injection rooms – spaces where drug addicts can inject under medical supervision.
Nutt was fired as a drug czar in 2009 after saying ecstasy and LSD were less dangerous than alcohol. Now chairman of the Drug Science charity, he told me Observer: “Safe injection room works. Not only do they save lives, they are also a gateway to the rehabilitation and removal of needles and other appliances from our streets and parks. They are a triple win. "
"Fixing rooms" have drastically reduced drug deaths in many countries, including Denmark and Canada, but the Home Office has blocked attempts to prosecute them in the UK. The NHS was rejected when it sought permission to test them in Glasgow – drug-related deaths are higher in Scotland than in any other European country. In March, the Labor Party also called for drug-use spaces to be tested to reduce deaths.
A document written by the Home Office's drug law team last year and sent to Glasgow councilors admitted that there was "evidence of the effectiveness of drug use rooms and addressing public nuisance issues associated with open drug scenes and to reduce health risks for drug users ”.
Campaigns point out that overdoses have fallen in European countries that have adopted the policy while in the UK they have risen.
The latest data shows that there were 4,359 deaths from drug poisoning in England and Wales last year, with more than half involving an opiate such as heroin.
Martin Powell of the Transform Drug Policy Foundation, which seeks to reduce drug-related harm through evidence-based policy reform, said: “When thousands of families are deprived every year of avoidable drug deaths, it is inconceivable that the government will continue to block supervised drug use rooms – especially when they have recognized for the Glasgow Council, where the NHS shouts to be allowed to open one that they work. We urge the Home Secretary to recognize this as a public health emergency and act now. "The latest research, published in June, found that the facilities saved 230 deaths in 20 months in British Columbia. The Canadian province has a similar population and drug problem as Scotland.
Last year Guardian visited a safe consumption facility in Denmark, where 800 overdoses had been recorded without a single death because nurses had quickly filed an antidote and revived the person before calling an ambulance. Campaigners say drug-related deaths in the country have stabilized since 2011, while no drug-related deaths have been recorded in Europe, of which at least 78 are.
The UK Government Advisory Council on Drug Abuse itself has stated that safe injection rooms in Vancouver, Canada and Sydney, Australia, have been successful in reducing overdose deaths.