• Keepcalmshirt

  • 1986

  • QR code

Featured Article

  • Swab
    Swabbing for me one of the first pieces of harm reduction advice I give is when to swab.
     

Time for safer spaces

I’m writing a conference presentation at the moment, the topic is the need for safer spaces to use drugs in the UK. As part of the research for it I spent a day this week walking around Birmingham with my camera. I think it’s very easy for drug workers to lose sight of the situations people are forced into when using drugs. Seeing where some people are injecting really makes it clear that we need a real push to get drug consumption rooms started. (PLEASE NOTE: this article contains images that may be upsetting for some people).

Drug consumption rooms (DCRs) are not a new thing, in 2015 there were 92 facilities operating in 62 countries around the world, with more opening every year. The most famous of these is Insite in Canada which is possibly the most researched medical unit in the world. These sites provide a safe place to use drugs (there have been no overdose deaths in DCRs) as well as a first point of contact for people to get into treatment, Stepshousing, healthcare and support services. But nothing in the UK, and with a few minor exceptions no real calls from drug services to start one.

During my photo walk around Birmingham I visited three known areas that people are publicly injecting. Two of these are waste-grounds next to car parks but one was a main walkway in the centre of town. The walkway is actually overlooked by one of the local drug services, this has resulted in situations where drug workers can see people going into the injecting space and effectively start timing them to check they are not there too long and overdosing.

To me, that alone is a sign that something needs to change, if that service included a DCR space either supervised or semi supervised (eg a room with a timer and an intercom) there would be far less risk of people dying of overdoses.

Public space

No place to inject

As you can see from some of the images these are no places where it’s possible to inject in a sterile or even semi sterile way, in many of the sites I saw used needles alongside human excrement. Add to that poor lighting, the fear of being seen by the public/police and in the case of the waste-grounds the chance that an overdose could go undiscovered and you realise that this cannot be allowed to continue.

But it IS continuing, I spoke to an ex-worker from Birmingham who took a similar set of photos 15 years ago. So the big question for me is why are the major drugs support charities not calling out for DCRs, will we ever see one take the leap to making a safer space for the people in greatest need of support?

More photos

I’ve posted a selection of the photos here, but if you want to see the full set they are over on my Medium page

 

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

Harm Reduction News

  • Holyrood calls on Westminster to allow safe drug room in Glasgow

    Setting up a safe room for addicts to take drugs could "save lives", Scotland's Public Health Minister has said.

    Read article

  • Durham police will give addicts heroin to inject in 'shooting galleries'

    The police force is set to become the first in England to implement an approach pioneered in Switzerland and credited with achieving positive results in a number of European countries but unlikely to attract much domestic political support.

    Read article

  • Women Need Better Options for Drug Treatment

    The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) is a United Nations body monitoring how states implement international drug-control conventions. In its annual report, which was presented yesterday in Berlin, the INCB analyzes the state of global drug use and provides a number of recommendations to help countries take control of drug issues among its citizens. This year's report focused especially on drug use among women and girls, which over the past few years has increased much more than drug use among men.

    Read article

  • Drug related deaths in England and Wales (BMJ)

    Non-structured interventions, including the provision of safer injecting advice, access to clean injecting equipment, and immunisation programmes, should be priorities for investment, and new initiatives such as drug consumption rooms should be developed to ensure we are able to attract drug users into treatment and protect them when they are not.

    Read article

  • Opening a supervised injection facility for people who inject drugs could save millions

    For the first time, researchers have determined the potential cost and benefits of opening a supervised injection facility for people who inject drugs in the United States. The study, released today, found that a single facility in San Francisco could generate $3.5 million in savings.

    Read article

  • The tip of the iceberg

    We have just seen the highest drug related deaths figures ever; these figures record deaths from drug poisoning, but services providers know that this is just the tip of the iceberg. There is an alarming increase in the numbers of people dying in treatment as a result of chronic ill health.

    Read article

  • Women-only supervised injection site planned in Vancouver

    A new mobile health team and a supervised injection site are planned for the Downtown Eastside to help an estimated 100 street-entrenched women.

    Read article

  • The Urgent Need for Clean Needles in UK Prisons

    The lack of harm reduction measures for people who use drugs in UK prisons is fuelling health problems, including the spread of HIV and other infectious diseases. It’s time to introduce needle and syringe programmes.

    Read article