Opinion: Supervised drug injecting in Ireland - 10 years of advocacy, legislation and delays

Claude Truong-Ngoc / Wikimedia Commons


Opinion: Supervised drug injecting in Ireland - 10 years of advocacy, legislation and delays

7 May 2022

By Tony Duffin and Eugene McCann / The Journal

IT HAS BEEN a decade since a supervised facility for people to inject drugs less harmfully was first proposed for Dublin.

It has been almost five years since Supervised Injecting Facilities have been legal in Ireland. It is time one was opened.

Street-based injecting

Street-based injecting refers to the practice of injecting drugs in public or semi-public places. Street-based injecting is harmful. There are harms affecting the people who are injecting and also harms that affect the community where injecting occurs.

"A Supervised Injecting Facility is a type of Drug Consumption Room. Supervised Injecting Facilities focus on injecting drug use and seek to reduce harm through the supervision of people who inject illicit or unknown drugs in a more hygienic and less public environment than otherwise; the provision of sterile equipment; the provision of advice on safer injecting practise; intervening when an overdose occurs; and by referring people to other services, e.g. health, social, housing, legal, etc."

For many years, drug use in Dublin’s public spaces has been and continues to be, a matter of significant concern. For example, in 2005, the Lord Mayor’s Commission on Crime and Policing highlighted the public perception of the problem of public injecting in Dublin, “injecting in public places…a sight [which] causes distress to members of the public who feel threatened by such overt drug abuse on the streets…and a perception of lawlessness often ensues”.

‘The worst thing’

In 2011 a public survey by Dublin City Council described ‘antisocial’ behaviour, including drug-related activities, as being the worst thing about Dublin. In that survey, there were over 400 mentions of drugs and drug use in the open responses.

"The persistence and significance of the problem over the last two decades suggest that existing policy responses have been ineffective in reducing associated drug-related harms."

Elsewhere, other public health-focused responses, such as Supervised Injecting Facilities, have been implemented successfully. But they have yet to be replicated in Ireland.