Proposed plans were revealed yesterday for Brighton to become the first British city to offer an environment where drug users can inject safely. These official drug consumption rooms will be exempt from prosecution as a way of encouraging injecting drug users to come along and use under the safety of professional supervision. A meeting is scheduled for June to decide whether these plans will go ahead. I can see arguments both for and against such plans for the people suffering from heroin addiction.
Arguments for safe rooms
Aside from the danger posed by the substance itself, injecting is perhaps one of the most dangerous aspects of an addiction – there is massive potential for things to go wrong such as hitting a vein, or contracting blood-borne viruses from dirty needles. There is also the fact that these individuals are pretty much guaranteed to be using regardless of whether there is a safe room to do it in – it makes sense for it to take place in a designated environment with appropriate needle disposal facilities rather than in a public area that could put others at risk.
Arguments against safe rooms
Such a facility has the potential to attract those who are using drugs but not yet injecting. There is also the potential for crime – if a drug addict has run out of their substance of choice, where better to go to obtain some more than a place where people are almost guaranteed to have scored recently. There will also be those who will say that such a facility will lower house prices in their area; a “not in my back yard” kind of mindset.
In other countries in the world that have tried these safe rooms there have been encouraging results, with statistics showing no one yet overdosing in one, and health workers gaining access to those who need treatment. I am still as yet undecided about how I feel about them and think I would need to learn more about how they would be set up and run.
What do you think? Would you use such a room? Would you support one in your local area?