A new £1.2m facility to give medical-grade heroin to Glasgow’s most problematic drug users is ready to open.

The Enhanced Drug Treatment Service will treat the most at risk heroin users who are in danger of a fatal overdose, HIV and Hepatitis C.

The facility is located to the east of the city centre in an area where already there is a serious problem with outdoor drug injecting.

It is expected that it will treat 20 patients in the first year and then doubling the number to 40 in year two.

The centre is a first in Scotland but is commonplace in many other European cities.
HeraldScotland: Dr Saket PriyardashiDr Saket Priyardashi

The EDT centre has a pharmacy where medical-grade diamorphine is prescribed and dispensed with a sterile safe injecting kit. 

Patients then take the drug to a booth where they will self-inject under the supervision of a nurse then move to an after-care area where they are assessed and their blood and oxygen levels are taken twice to check for signs of an overdose before they are allowed to leave.

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Staff are fully trained in overdose and have access to defibrillators and naloxone, which reverse the effect of an overdose.

Those using the service, who must already be involved with the city’s Homeless Addiction Team, will attend twice a day for the morning and afternoon sessions.

There dosage will be monitored and if necessary tested for other illegal heroin use to avoid overdose risk.

The centre has taken three years to be opened after it was one of the recommendations of a public health report in 2016.
The centre, then called Heroin Assisted Treatment, along with a safer drug consumption facility were two out of seven recommendations to tackle the outbreak of HIV among injecting drug users and rising drug death figures that were outstanding.

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The ideal solution was to locate both facilities on the same site but legal and political blockages have meant the consumption room has not been given permission.

Advice from the Lord Advocate is that the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 needs amending by Westminster to ensure staff are immune from prosecution and users are not arrested for taking illegal drugs into the centre.

The UK Home Office has refused to consider changing the law, so the council and health board through the Health and Social Care Partnership has opened the EDT on its own instead.

Dr Saket Priyardashi, Senior Medical officer said the two are quite different.

He said: “The EDT deals with relatively small numbers of people. It allows us to help them come off-street heroin and onto diamorphine and provide other health needs.

There are between 500 and 600 people in the city centre injecting population at risk of HIV and drug-related death.

This facility will reach a small number. We need Safe Drug Consumption Room to reach bigger numbers.”
He said he is “frustrated” at the legal and political block as HIV and drug deaths are rising faster than in 2016 when it was first proposed.

Susanne Millar, chair of the city’s Alcohol and Drug Partnership said: “It is aimed at people with the most chaotic lifestyles and severe addictions who have not responded to existing treatments.”

“People might question why people are spending money providing heroin for people with addictions. The answer is ‘we can’t afford not to’ 

“Not only are we striving to save the lives of individuals themselves, we also aim to reduce the spread of HIV and reduce the impact of addictions on Glasgow’s families and communities.”

She said local after the most vulnerable people always has challenges but said the partnership has engaged with local people and would not dismiss any anxieties but look to address them and be a respectful neighbour.

Dr Carole Hunter, the city’s lead pharmacist said: the evidence is people gain the most in the first six months.

She said the product is a Swiss-made diamorphine that comes in 10g vials made up into individual doses for each user.