Calls for overdose prevention centre to tackle Dundee drug deaths

Harm reduction charity Cranstoun is meeting with politicians this week to make the case for a facility in the city.

Calls for overdose prevention centre to tackle Dundee drug deaths STV News
Peter Krykant inspecting signs of drug use in a Dundee alley.

A harm reduction charity looking to set up the UK’s first permanent drug overdose prevention centre in Scotland is considering Dundee as a possible second location.

Treatment provider Cranstoun says the facility would allow people to inject their own substances like heroin in a safe place and help signpost them to support services.

Campaigners are meeting with politicians this week to make their case for a centre in the City of Discovery, with plans for a facility in Glasgow currently sitting with the Crown Office.

Peter Krykant, who set up a temporary service from an ambulance after his own battles with addiction, is leading efforts.

“What we’re looking at is drugs, currently being taken in alleyways, being taken in a safer environment but also having wrap-around services where people can access support with housing, health and welfare, social and physiological support,” he said.

“It’ll give people the opportunity to address some of the reasons why they’re in those situations in the first place like adverse childhood experiences.

“That real wrap-around support for people who often are desperate for support and to know that people actually do care.”

The idea of an overdose prevention centre, also known as a drug consumption room, has been of much debate for years.

Krykant was given approval from the then Lord Advocate to run his mobile service in Glasgow and he’s confident proposals for a fixed location where people can take their own drugs will be supported.

“I believe no laws are actually being broken under the misuse of drugs act other than the possession of the substances from the people who are using the centre,” he said.

“We can get around that with a simple memorandum of understanding or a letter of comfort from the Lord Advocate and thankfully the Scottish Lord Advocate, Dorothy Bain QC has said she’s going to look at fresh proposals.”

That decision has cast doubt on the previous belief that only the UK Government could legalise consumption rooms.

It continues to oppose the idea, the Scottish Government is in favour.

Megan Jones from social justice charity Cranstoun said: “When we talk about overdose prevention centres we’re wanting to get to people who are least likely to come into our services.

“That’s why we want to collaborate with existing drug and alcohol services, collaborate with existing partnerships to engage the people who need us the most.”

The number of drug related deaths in Scotland reached a record high in 2020, with 1,339 recorded, up from 1,264 the year before.

Figures for 2021 will be published this summer. Quarterly data indicates it may not be as high, but drugs activists still believe change is needed.

“Dundee has one of the highest drug-death rates per head of population in the whole of the world right now. That’s something we need to address, not just with overdose prevention services but wrap-around care,” added Krykant.

“Things like diamorphine assisted treatment or heroin assisted treatment. We need those services here in Dundee as well.”