We’ve seen today the news from Scotland that Glasgow has approved the first consumption room in the UK. Adferiad believes that harm reduction is an essential component of a holistic approach to supporting people address their substance use issues. It is important though to recognise that this is a component of an often-complex multidisciplinary approach, but in our opinion should not be the end goal for the vast majority of people. Ultimately, we cannot and should not consider that lifetime harmful substance use is healthy or something that we should facilitate, but while people are on their own journey to manage their substance use, we must ensure that they remain as safe as they possibly can.
Adferiad recognises the current debate around enhanced harm reduction rooms and believes that where a particular harm reduction approach may help we have a duty to engage in the discussion. Our concerns around enhanced harm reduction rooms are fourfold.
Firstly, we are concerned that with a safety net available on site, people may seek to take larger and more dangerous doses rather than work to reduce consumption.
Secondly, we fear that wherever such services are provided, this will incentivise dealers to target individuals, increase crime in that area as individuals may need funds to buy substances. There is the potential to create the impression that this is the ‘go to’ town / city for drug supply and create an associated micro-market for dealing. This is something that can be overcome by proactive policing but does pose a number of challenges.
The third and fourth concerns are intertwined. Services are currently under-resourced, and treatment, detox, and rehab services need greater investment than they currently receive. A new service such as the enhanced harm reduction room would need new and designated funding AND MUST use every contact with clients to provide support towards reducing their substance use. Without this, we are creating a new long-term issue, and such facilities will quickly become swamped if clients do not progress in recovery.
While this is a bold step in Glasgow and one we will be watching closely, we also recognise Annemarie Ward’s comments (CEO of Faces and Voices of Recovery UK) that the Scottish government should be focusing not just on harm reduction but also on treatment, prevention, dissuasion and reintegration of users into society.