A House of Commons Home Affairs Committee recommendation to legalise safe consumption facilities for drug users has been supported by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS).
In its report on illegal drug use in the UK, published on 31 August 2023, the committee advocates a stronger public health approach towards addiction, with more services focused on reducing harm.
It recommends that the government create a legislative pathway to enable the pilot of a safe consumption facility in Glasgow, where users could consume drugs in a sterile environment under medical supervision, to reduce the risk of overdose and transmission of blood-borne diseases.
A previous attempt by the House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee to allow for a pilot of safe consumption facilities was rejected by the UK government in 2020.
Welcoming the latest proposals, Claire Anderson, president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), said there are around 100 supervised drug consumption facilities globally, which have provided more than 30 years of evidence of their effectiveness.
“We believe we can apply that learning here and provide clean, safe spaces for those injecting drugs. This will bring illegal drug users closer to mainstream health and addiction support services, and provide an opportunity for health professionals to engage in treatment and prevention. This in turn will help to save lives, reduce harm and reduce drug deaths,” she added.
The RPS previously called for safe consumption facilities in its 2021 policy ‘Improving care, reducing harm and preventing death in people who use drugs: Pharmacy’s role’.
Diana Johnson, chair of the Home Affairs Committee, said the government’s drug strategy required “much more meaningful action” to tackle drug-related problems.
“Fundamentally, we need to have the right interventions in place to help people break free from the terrible cycles of addiction and criminality that drug addiction can cause,” she said.
“Simply attempting to remove drugs from people’s lives hasn’t worked. They need the right support to let them deal with addiction, but also psychosocial support and interventions that deal with the underlying trauma that may have led them to drugs in the first place.”
The Home Affairs Committee report also called for classifications of controlled substances to be reviewed by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs to ensure that they accurately reflect the risk of harm, as well as for the “urgent” reclassification of psychedelic drugs to support clinical research into their medical or therapeutic uses.