Injecting Facility to open in Dublin city centre

Heroin deaths could decrease with a suitable and safe place to use drugs, writes Ottavia Caminita.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) is searching for a suitable injection facility in Dublin city centre.

Between 2004 and 2013, there has been an increase of 98 per cent in the number of deaths related to poly drugs. Out of these, 72 per cent were connected with heroin, according to the Health Research Board (HRB).

The needle-exchange programme was set up in 2011 by the HSE, with the intent to provide clean needles and syringes for drug users. This was done to decrease blood-transmitted diseases such as HIV and has been proven effective. The Review of Needle-Exchange Provision in Ireland reported that diagnosed HIV cases decreased from 71 in 2004 to 13 in 2012 (a decline of 82 per cent).

The HSE proposal to open an injection facility with equipped staff is designed to provide emergency care in case of an overdose, advice on treatment and rehabilitation and will also alleviate the problems associated with injecting on the street.

“The human cost of public injecting is clear and keeps adding up – the lack of dignity and the effect it has on people’s health, wellbeing and safety”

The injection room is going to have a pilot phase of 18 months, with an evaluation of its positive or negative effects after six months and again at the end of the 18 months.

A controlled environment for the self-administration of drugs has had a positive effect in many countries.

Australia opened a Medically Supervised Injection Centre in Sydney in 2001. It had a reduction of 80 per cent in ambulance call out over 10 years, managed over 6,000 overdose cases successfully and had zero fatalities reported by the Uniting Medically Supervised Injecting Centre.

An injection centre could have many beneficial effects such as a decline in mortality of drug users and lowering public-health costs.

The location for the supervised injecting facility is still uncertain, because people living in that area could have issues with having the centre close by. But the HSE established a working group for possible location options.

It is believed that the injection room will not attract drug users to an area and that the possession for sale or supply of drugs outside the facility will continue to be an offence against the law.

Catherine Byrne, the Minister of State for Communities and the National Drugs Strategy stated: “They will provide a controlled place for people to inject, but will be much more than that – a place to rest, have a chat and access the services people need. I believe in a health-led and person-centred approach to the drug problem. For me this is all about people and looking after the most vulnerable and marginalised in our society.

“The human cost of public injecting is clear and keeps adding up – the lack of dignity and the effect it has on people’s health, wellbeing and safety. We know that these facilities are not the sole solution to the drugs’ problem and many other steps are needed, but I am committed to doing everything we can to help those who need it most.”

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