RESEARCH from a Glasgow university has revealed that the majority of Scots back the introduction of drug consumption rooms (DCRs) – with academics insisting the idea remains an option despite UK Government opposition.

Scotland is Europe’s drugs death capital with more fatalities per person than any other nation, according to the latest data – amid reports that the rate has risen further during the Covid-19 lockdown.

The Scottish Government has long-backed introducing supervised DCRs in a bid to treat the crisis as a health issue, but the UK Government renewed its opposition to the policy during February’s drugs death summit in Glasgow.

Last summer, statistics were released showing there were 1,187 drug-related deaths in Scotland in 2018.

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A new piece of research by experts at Glasgow Caledonian University, alongside Liverpool University and Liverpool John Moores University, has revealed for the first time that the Scottish public supports DCRs being put in place.

DCRs allow drug users bring heroin to be injected in sterile conditions under supervision, but any plans to introduce the policy in Scotland need the consent of the UK Government.

The study found that 61 per cent of people agreed with the introduction of DCRs in Scotland, whilst only 15 per cent disagreed, and 24 per cent were unsure.

The research also found that the public are more sympathetic to setting up drug consumption rooms if they are given more information about the potential benefits they could have for people indirectly affected by drug-related harm, such as families impacted by drug-related deaths.

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Scientists randomly presented one of six different messages about DCRs to more than 1,500 people from across Scotland, designed to match the profile of the Scottish general population to ensure the findings of the study reflect the public’s views.

Earlier this year, another study led by Glasgow Caledonian researchers found that three quarters of people who inject drugs in Scotland would use DCRs, with that figure rising to 83 per cent in Glasgow city centre.

Dr Andrew McAuley, senior research fellow at Glasgow Caledonian University, has stressed that the policy idea can be resurrected and should remain on the table.

He said: “Harms related to drug use in Scotland are at record levels and Glasgow is at the epicentre with an ongoing HIV outbreak and some of the highest drug-related death rates in the country.

"One of the proposals put forward to tackle these public health crises has been a DCR but this has repeatedly been rejected by the UK Government.

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“However, that doesn’t mean that the case for DCRs in Glasgow has gone away and, as researchers, we’ve continued to build the evidence base for a DCR in the city by looking at the drug-related harms that such a facility would seek to address including our work on HIV, public injecting, and more recently whether people who inject drugs would use it.

“This latest research not only suggests that Scots support DCRs but also that giving the public more information about the benefits of DCRs such as reducing drug deaths among people who use them, and also that they can save the NHS money because of the overdose deaths and infections that they prevent, would make them more supportive.”

Susanne Millar, chair of Glasgow City Alcohol and Drug Partnership (ADP) and interim chief officer for Glasgow Health and Social Care Partnership, welcomed the research results and said public support for drug consumption rooms “bolsters the unequivocal evidence of the urgent need for such a facility”.

She added: “It highlights the emotional, social and economic impact addiction is inflicting on individuals, families, communities and public services. People fully appreciate that such a facility could not only help those who are personally struggling with addiction, but also their relatives and the areas they live in, as well as easing pressure on Glasgow’s frontline emergency services.

“The city’s health and social care partnership is ready to pilot a safer drug consumption facility as soon as Westminster agrees to make the legal changes required for us to do so legally. And that can’t come soon enough for the city as a whole and the thousands of families affected by addiction.”

Mhairi Hunter, Glasgow’s City Council’s convener for health and social care, said it was “high time decision-makers in the UK Government caught up with public opinion and stopped blocking the introduction” of drug consumption rooms where they are desperately needed.