An official drug consumption room could open in Glasgow after consultation was launched on a bill that could pave the way for it to become a reality in the future.
There were 291 drug related deaths in Glasgow during 2020 – a record high – up 4.3% compared to 2019.
Labour MSP Paul Sweeney, who kickstarted the legal bid this week, believes such facilities, also known as overdose prevention centres, would save lives and money.
They aim to offer safe clean places for people to take drugs under supervision.
Commenting on the introduction of the Drug Death Prevention Scotland Bill, Sweeney said: “The city wants it, councillors want it. Let’s get on with it.
“The point of this bill is to create a legal framework to operate in. This will put the cat among the pigeons and force progress.”
He added: “There is an impetus across parties in Glasgow to introduce a pilot centre.”
The Glasgow MSP volunteered at an unofficial overdose prevention facility run by drugs campaigner Peter Krykant from a refurbished ambulance in Glasgow.
He said people were saved at the unit thanks to them having the overdose medication Naloxone at the centre.
Describing the experience, Sweeney said: “It proved to be very effective – it saved about a dozen lives. These people could have died in an alleyway alone and in filthy conditions.”
He continued: “Peter’s van was very busy. People didn’t just come because it is safe. They came because they were shown respect.”
He said offering people a “a cup of tea” can lead to “positive conversations,” help them gain access to support in housing or recovery.
Eventually Glasgow could see a number of overdose prevention centres located in the city or there could be mobile units.
There are more than 150 overdose prevention centres operating around the world in the USA, Canada, Australia, Germany and others.
The aim of the bill consultation is to provide a legal basis for setting them up in Scotland and create a licensing framework to govern and regulate them.
The Glasgow Health and Social Care Partnership developed a business case for establishing an overdose prevention centre in 2017 in the city.
Sweeney said: “Reversing the drug death crisis currently gripping Scotland will require a multi-faceted public health approach, and overdose prevention centres must be part of that.
“They are not a silver bullet, no one approach is, but our ambition here is implement changes that will save lives and overdose prevention centres will do that.
He added: “The drug death crisis is the biggest single issue facing our country.
“Every six hours, one of our fellow citizens dies of a preventable drug related death and we need to do everything we can to resolve that.
“Overdose prevention centres are one tool at our disposal, and I look forward to a grown up, constructive debate about how we all work together to set them up in Scotland.”