The idea for so-called ‘fix rooms’, where long-term intravenous drug users are able to use narcotics under supervision of trained staff, is one solution to help those whose lives have been ravaged by heroin addiction.
Dave Liddle, chief executive of the Scottish Drugs Forum, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme there was an urgent need to show more understanding in policy surrounding drug addiction.
He told the Today programme: “If we don’t reach out to these people more effectively they will die in a short period of time. Let’s try and be a bit more compassionate for these people.”
However Professor Neil McKeganey of the Centre for Substance Use Research responded: “I’m afraid not, these individuals need help to get off drugs.
“The idea we can provide means where they can use drugs supposedly with a greater degree of safety will not reduce the rising cases of HIV infection and other adverse outcomes of drug use. We must have services to get addicts off drugs.”
He added: “I’m afraid that seems harsh but we’ve pursued these policies for 25 years with serial failure.”
Explaining who the proposal is designed to help, Liddle said: “We’ve got a particular problem with long-term injectors with a range of health issues associated with that.
“This is all about reaching out to that group and keeping them alive.”
Details such as how much the ‘fix rooms’ will cost, where they will be located and who will staff them still need to be determined.
The proposals will be considered later by the Glasgow City Integration Joint Board.
Similar ‘fix room’ schemes operate in 10 other countries, including Australia, Germany, France and Switzerland.
In France, a so-called ‘shooting gallery’ has been opened where users inject under supervision.
Prescription heroin is also available in Britain, under a little-known system in which the Home Office licenses doctors to prescribe diamorphine.
The Huffington Post UK recently reported the story of a London heroin user who receives a regular prescription of the drug.
Dr Emilia Crighton, director of public health at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said: “Nowadays we see that actually that most of Europe is providing addiction services.
“There are safe consumption rooms - Switzerland has a model where there is heroin-assisted treatment and opiates-replacement treatment that satisfies the needs of the population.
“So we really have to find a solution that brings the solutions elsewhere in the world to Glasgow.”