A heroin-assisted treatment service will be up and running in Glasgow by the end of this year. The move, which will allow the drug to be prescribed for addicts, is being introduced as pressure to allow a drug consumption room in the city grows.
Dr Saket Priyadarshi, of Glasgow Alcohol and Drug Recovery Services, said the facility would be a “proportional response to a public health emergency in the city.”
Speaking at a seminar in Glasgow held by the Public Health Information Network for Scotland, he outlined the scale of the issue, saying drug injecting sites littered with needles can be found throughout the city centre.
He said a typical example would be an area where three or four people are sleeping, using drugs and alcohol, and as a place for toileting and “all their day-to-day activities.”
He said: “There are many sites across the city like this, particularly in the lanes.
“As well as small sites, there are huge sites where thousands and thousands of needles are found, often on the edges of the city.”
The ‘controversial’ question of drug consumption rooms and heroin-assisted treatment have been discussed for a number of years, Dr Priyadarshi said.
But an outbreak of HIV in 2015 among drug addicts – which has spread to more than 150 people – and significant rises in drug-related deaths have added to urgency of their introduction.
Dr Priyadarshi said: “We are currently implementing heroin-assisted treatment which will now be active in Glasgow city towards the end of the year.
“We are going to be the first such service in Scotland, although it has been used elsewhere in the UK.”
The introduction of a drug consumption room will be reliant on a change in the laws around drugs – which is reserved to the UK Government.
Dr Priyadarshi said: “Westminster has declined and it doesn’t show any appetite to change its mind at the moment.”
But he said had “lost count” of the number of similar facilities open elsewhere in the world, adding: “They are very well-established responses to [drug] problems in urban populations all across Western Europe, Australia and Canada.”