A majority of people in Scotland support drug consumption rooms, according to a new study.
The Home Office previously refused to allow the country’s first drug consumption room (DCR) in Glasgow, which would have enabled people who inject drugs to do so in a safe environment under supervision.
Under current legislation, such a facility, which aims to prevent drug-related deaths and reduce HIV infection rates, would be illegal.
In 2018, there were 1187 drug-related deaths registered – 253 more than the year before, or a 27% increase, according to the National Records of Scotland (NRS).
The Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board area had the highest number of deaths at 394, followed by Lothian at 152, Lanarkshire at 130 and Tayside at 109.
Although there are around 100 DCRs in operation internationally, they are still seen as controversial in the UK.
The new research, conducted by academics in Glasgow and Liverpool, questioned more than 1500 people in Scotland and found 61% agreed with introducing the facilities, while 15% were against and 24% unsure.
Scientists randomly presented one of six different messages about the rooms to 1591 people from across Scotland, designed to match the general Scottish population profile to ensure the study findings reflected the wider public’s views.
The research also revealed public sympathy for the proposal increased when they were given more information about the potential benefits for people, such as families impacted by drug-related deaths.
Dr Andrew McAuley, a senior research fellow at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) and senior author of the report, said: “Harms related to drug use in Scotland are at record levels and Glasgow is at the epicentre with an ongoing HIV outbreak and some of the highest drug-related death rates in the country.
“This latest research not only suggests that Scots support DCRs but also that giving the public more information about the benefits of DCRs, such as reducing drug deaths among people who use them and also that they can save the NHS money because of the overdose deaths and infections that they prevent, would make them more supportive.”
Earlier this year, another study led by GCU researchers found 75% of people who inject drugs in Scotland would use DCRs, rising to 83% in Glasgow city centre.
Susanne Millar, chairwoman of Glasgow City Alcohol and Drug Partnership, which funded the study, said public support for drug consumption rooms “bolsters the unequivocal evidence of the urgent need for such a facility”.
Ms Millar, who is also interim chief officer for Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “The city’s health and social care partnership is ready to pilot a safer drug consumption facility as soon as Westminster agrees to make the legal changes required for us to do so legally.
“And that can’t come soon enough for the city as a whole and the thousands of families affected by addiction.”