31/10/2016 10:30 GMT | Updated 31/10/2016 10:36 GMT

Heroin Fix Rooms In Glasgow Proposals Prompts Debate Over 'Compassion' Towards Addicts

'If we don’t reach out to these people more effectively they will die.'

Opponents of plans to allow drug addicts in Glasgow to inject under supervision should have more compassion, a member of the Scottish Drugs Forum has said.

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. 

Marianne Williams Photography, via Getty Images
‘Fix rooms’ would allow long-term injection drug users are able to use narcotics under supervision of trained staff

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.” 

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Details such as how much the ‘fix rooms’ will cost and where they will be located still needs to be decided

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.”

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The 'fix room' proposal will see a room situated in the city of Glasgow

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.
Professor Neil McKeganey opposes 'fix rooms' and sees them as a step towards legalisation of drugs

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.
Dave Liddle of the Scottish Drug Forum supports the 'fix room' proposals

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.”

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