MPs urged to back plans for UK's first 'shooting galleries' for drug users


MPs will be urged to consider bringing in “shooting galleries” to allow vulnerable addicts to legally inject drugs such as heroin without facing prosecution.

The SNP’s Alison Thewliss wants to pave the way for the UK’s first supervised drug consumption rooms, where trained staff can watch over heroin users to prevent fatal overdoses and curb the spread of HIV and hepatitis C through contaminated needles.

Health chiefs in Glasgow have tried to introduce a pilot scheme to help more than 400 addicts using heroin in public places in the city, however the scheme has stalled as staff and heroin users face prosecution for handling illicit drugs.

Vulnerable users are being failed by the status quo while discarded drug paraphernalia on the city’s streets is putting other residents at risk, Ms Thewliss said.

The Glasgow Central MP told The Independent: “The problems associated with public injecting are patently clear – my constituency office regularly receives reports of needles and other drug paraphernalia being discarded in public places, and I have seen drug-injecting taking place in locations not far from where my office is located.

“The complex health issues for the drug-injecting population in Scotland are becoming ever more alarming, especially for an ageing population who have been injecting for a long time.

“In Scotland in 2016 there were 867 deaths from fatal overdoses of drugs – the highest number of deaths from drug overdose in Europe. We cannot stand still on this issue any longer.

“Doing the same thing, over and over, is failing families, communities, and those using drugs. Supervised injecting facilities may not solve everything, but they have worked elsewhere.”

She added: “The Home Office must support my Bill and allow Glasgow to go ahead with the pilot. If it doesn’t work, fine. We should still try.”

Some 400 to 500 people are street-injecting in the centre of Glasgow on a regular basis, according to health authorities in the Scots city, which has also seen an outbreak of HIV cases in recent years.

More than 100 safe drug consumption facilities operate in 66 cities across 10 countries and evidence suggests the move can lead to a reduction in discarded needles, overdoses and blood-borne diseases such as HIV, Ms Thewliss said. 

She will introduce her bill in Parliament today, where it will need to secure the backing of MPs before it can progress to the next stage. However it is unlikely to become law without Government support.

The Home Office has refused to back the proposals in the past and maintains a number of offences would be committed in drug consumption rooms.

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