I’m satisfied that the amendment for a pilot Medical-Supervised Injecting Room has finally been accepted, on the long overdue Mis-Use of Drugs Act revision. We have been actively pushing for updating the Act for a number of years.
We need a wide range of options and services to enable and support stability and recovery from problem drug use.
People get caught up in abusing and misusing drugs and alcohol and many will become addicted but, while there is a wide range of reasons this happens, I think everyone agrees that no one sets out to become an addict or an alcoholic. I would like to see everyone in recovery and very much support the work of the Recovery Academy, but the reality is that there are those who will stay in addiction.
I have always said recovery should be the main aim in any drugs rehabilitation programmes, the fact remains that many people are injecting drugs, and it makes sense be able to take and dispose of needles in a safe environment rather than use down alleyways and dump drug paraphernalia on the street, or even near playgrounds where children play as many people have reported to me.
These centres have been recommended as far back as 2005.
At the request of the Ana Liffey Drug Project, I hosted a meeting in the AV room in Leinster House on having a medically supervised injecting centre. It was difficult to look at someone injecting him or herself but there was no doubt it was done in a clean and safe environment. People who work in these kinds of centres told me they saw a reduction in the use of heroin, the safe disposal of drug paraphernalia, a reduction in the incidence of overdoses and other health issues being addressed. The film showed an older cohort of established drug user. I wonder about the injecting drug users we see shooting up on the streets and their chaotic lives. Will they be able to get to a centre to avail of these services?
My concerns relate to the timeframe, because we are really under pressure but I doubt we will see it before the election. Also we must ensure the injecting centre does not come out of the current addiction services budget, which has been pretty much decimated. This decision has not yet been made.
Location is another issue. I know everyone will say, “Not in my back yard”, but there are areas that have an abundance of services allied with private rental accommodation meaning anti-social behaviour and criminality occurs. A mobile unit was suggested and the Ana Liffey Drug Project has also made the suggestion which I will continue to put forward.
Obviously, full recovery is the ultimate goal, but, in the meantime, we need innovative strategies to deal with the people concerned, the kernel of which are compassion and dignity. I refer to the issue of detox beds and have drawn the Minister of State’s attention to a winter strategy used in London in the 1990s. Unused office space was taken over and a floor set aside for those who were homeless and who had an addiction but wanted to embark on a detox programme. The project reached a cohort of extremely vulnerable people.