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People who inject drugs would use drug consumption rooms, shows first survey of its kind in Scotland

Lead PhD researcher of the study, Kirsten Trayner
Lead PhD researcher of the study, Kirsten Trayner

People who inject drugs would use drug consumption rooms, according to the first study of its kind in Scotland.

Researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University found the vast majority of people who inject drugs at greatest risk of drug-related harm in Scotland would be willing to use consumption rooms (DCRs), professionally supervised healthcare facilities where people can consume drugs in safer conditions.

The study, published in The International Journal of Drug Policy, is considered to be further evidence that DCRs could have a big impact on Scotland’s drug crisis.

It was completed in light of proposals by officials in Glasgow to introduce the UK’s first DCR in response to the ongoing HIV outbreak in the city and the drug-related deaths crisis.

The proposals attracted widespread support from the Scottish Government, local authorities, health officials and the police but have been repeatedly rejected by the UK Government.

The rejections were on the basis of a lack of an appropriate legal framework for operation of a DCR, under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

Lead PhD researcher of the study, Kirsten Trayner said: “Our findings suggest that this intervention has the potential to reach those most at risk of death and disease, which adds to existing evidence of the important role that drug consumption rooms could have in addressing the country’s drugs crisis.

“Willingness to use a drug consumption room was extremely high across all regions in Scotland and among key risk groups, including those who reported homelessness, cocaine injecting and public injecting.

“This is the first research of its kind in Scotland, and particularly important given the recent proposals to establish a drug consumption room in Glasgow city centre.”

Kirsten was part of a team of 11 field workers, who collected data across Scotland using a detailed questionnaire which examined a range of demographics and behaviours such as homelessness, the type of drugs injected, drug treatment and incarceration history – all questions which were related to an individual’s injecting risk.

Researchers interviewed 1469 people who inject drugs and results showed 75% of people who inject drugs in Scotland were willing to use DCRs.

Willingness was greater among people who reported injecting heroin (76%), cocaine (79%), and those with experiences of homelessness (86%), public injecting (87%) and recent overdose (80%).

The team also took dry blood spot tests which are tested anonymously for HIV and hepatitis C to help researchers better understand the prevalence of blood borne viruses among those involved in the study.

Kirsten said: “Drug consumption rooms are a really important intervention but it’s good to remember that they don’t hold the answer to all of Scotland’s problems with drug-related harms. They need to be implemented within a package of lots of different harm reduction interventions that includes easily accessible drug treatment, widespread availability of clean injecting equipment, and take-home naloxone for those at risk of overdose.”

This research follows on from another study published in January, in which Kirsten was also lead author.

The study focussed on public injecting and found that people who inject drugs in Glasgow city centre are more likely to inject in public.

The research revealed that a high level of public injecting was also a driver of the recent increase in HIV in the city. It was also a risk factor for hepatitis C, recent overdose and skin and soft tissue infections.

DCRs are a key intervention to address the issue of public injecting. The study concluded the findings added weight to the calls for a drug consumption room in Glasgow.