Irish Examiner, January 20 2012, by Cormac O’Keeffe

A drug project plans to set up the country’s first consumption room to allow users inject drugs under medical supervision. Such a facility is currently illegal under Irish law, but the Anna Liffey project wants to open one by the end of 2014. The agency celebrates its 30th anniversary this year and plans to push the matter with the Government, gardaí and other agencies. 

Director Tony Duffin said similar projects have been operating in other countries, including in the EU, and have had success. He accepted there might be opposition to a medically supervised injecting centre, but said drug policy should be based on evidence and what works. 

"We’re not just going to open it tomorrow and break the law. We would hope to open it towards December 2014," said Mr Duffin, speaking before the publication today of their strategic plan 2012-2014. 

He said there were health and social reasons for such a facility: "We have an injecting drug culture, particularly in Dublin. It causes an amount of antisocial behaviour for communities and health risks for the individuals — people injecting in alleyways, beside excrement, injecting in a hurry, risking HIV or hepatitis if sharing." 

Mr Duffin said a medically supervised facility would be staffed by nurses who would advise on safe injecting, and social staff and project workers who would try to engage with users. 

"The aim would be to remove barriers to conversations with them, to move them away from using and into treatment, to build up a therapeutic relationship." 

He accepted people might object to the plan. "This is not about the legalisation of drugs, it’s about reducing the harm to a relatively small group of people. This is not for every drug user, not for young people, not for new users; mostly people who are well-established injecting users — to give them a safe place to come to." 

In 2005, the Government’s drug advisory body recommended that injecting rooms should be considered, particularly for homeless heroin users. 

It said the facilities might allow more hygienic injecting practices and reduce street-based injecting and overdoses. 

Anna Liffey is based in Dublin, but also operates in the midlands and north-east. 

Assessment of benefits 

DRUG consumption rooms (DCRs) improve drug users’ access to health and social care and reduce public drug use, says a review by the European drugs agency. 

The assessment by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, published in 2010, said there were more than 90 DCRs across the world, the first set up in 1986. 

Countries operating them include Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Luxembourg, Norway, Canada and Australia. 

"Research shows that the facilities reach their target population and provide immediate improvements through better hygiene and safety conditions for injectors." 

The facilities led to increased uptake by drug users of detoxification and treatment services.

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