What is a drug consumption room?

Simply, a drug consumption room or a Safer Drug Consumption Facility is a space in which a person who uses drugs can take those drugs in a safe way.

That means someone is able to take their own supply of drugs into a facility and is able to check them to make sure they are what they think are.

It also means that they can take them using clean sterile injection equipment.

Clinicians will be on hand if the worst happens and someone overdoses or takes an adverse reaction.

They can also offer a range of other services, including treatment and other healthcare as well as helping with recovery and pushing people towards other services. 

However, if someone just wants to go into the building use drugs and then leave, they can.

Is this legal?

No. Under Section 5 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 it is unlawful for a person to have a controlled drug in their possession.

That law is firmly reserved to Westminster and there is no appetite from the current UK Government to reform it.

In the past, Sir Keir Starmer has also been critical of drug consumption facilities, so Labour is unlikely to tweak the legislation if, as expected, they form the next government.

But while the law is in the hands of the Home Office, prosecution in Scotland is in the hands of Dorothy Bain KC, the Lord Advocate.

In a statement earlier this month, the law officer said she “would be prepared to publish a prosecution policy that it would not be in the public interest to prosecute drug users for simple possession offences committed within a pilot safer drugs consumption facility.”

She added: “I have not been asked to sign-off or approve any facility and it would not be appropriate for me to do so. However, prosecution policy is for me alone to set and this policy, and the consequences which flow from it, have been considered deeply and thoroughly.”

The Lord Advocate made clear that the only criminal offence that would not be prosecuted was possession of controlled substances.

“It does not amount to an exclusion zone whereby a range of criminality is tolerated.”

What are the police going to do?

Police Scotland has made clear that the law has not changed and that their officers “will still be bound by their legal duty to uphold the law and will not be able to simply ignore acts of criminality which they see occurring."

But the force has been working with the Integration Joint Board since the very beginning. They even contributed to the proposal sent to the Lord Advocate.

They said their approach would be "to establish how best policing can support it within the confines of the law."

How will it work?

The facility will share premises with the Enhanced Drug Treatment Service in Hunter Street in the Calton, just round the corner from the Barrowland Ballroom. It will be open between 9am and 9pm, 365 days a year.

The building will need “significant redesign.”

Draft plans show a new reception area, an injecting area with eight booths along one wall.

It also shows a post-injection area, treatment rooms, and a recovery and aftercare area.

The Herald:

Your headline says it’s the UK’s first, does that mean there’s going to be more?

Edinburgh and Dundee have both expressed an interest in running their own pilots.

The Glasgow pilot has funding secured until March 2027, and will be heavily evaluated. If the results are positive then it could lead to demand for similar services elsewhere in the UK. 

Will it make a difference?

Everyone involved in the project and everyone who supports the project is keen to stress that this is no silver bullet, rather it’s what Humza Yousaf called “one tool as part of a wider effort to reduce drug deaths.”

There are around 100 facilities across the world and in a report before the Integrated Joint Board on Tuesday, Susanne Millar, Chief Officer said there was “overwhelming international evidence" which showed that the facilities can improve "the health, well-being and recovery of people who use the facility and reduce the negative impact that public injecting has on local communities and businesses.”.

A study in Sydney showed that there were fewer emergency service call-outs related to overdoses at the times the safe injecting site was open.

In Barcelona, a fourfold reduction was reported in the number of unsafely disposed syringes being collected in the vicinity from a monthly average of over 13,000 in 2004 to around 3,000 in 2012.

That said there is some scepticism from some in the sector who worry this expensive intervention could see money taken away from other resources.