Drink and Drugs News DDN November 2018 - Page 10

consumption rooms right? the fix S afe injecting sites, drug consumption rooms, safe injecting facilities, fix rooms or the rather more grandiose medically supervised injecting centres are just some of the many labels applied to legally sanctioned medically supervised drug consumption sites – places where drug users can inject their drugs safely. The laudable purpose of these sites is to reduce BBVs and overdose, while also reducing the nuisance caused by drug users injecting in public. They also offer users a route into a variety of mainstream services they otherwise might not have come in contact with. Sounds super great, right? So, why do I always feel so uneasy when the subject comes up? I have to say, part of the unease comes from the reaction to anyone questioning the virtue of safe injecting sites – a reaction which ranges from scorn to outright hostility. Consequently an orthodoxy is being created around the subject, and in my experience unquestioned orthodoxies tend to lead to poor policy – and there’s more than enough of that out there already! My unease, however, goes beyond a personal dislike of the virtue signalling and group-think that cloud the issue. There are several concrete reasons for concern regarding the costs that come with the safe injecting sites – costs that really need addressing and analysing. Firstly, there will inevitably be a cost in community relations. Nothing exists in a vacuum – especially not property prices which, given the amount of stigma around IV drug use, will inevitably drop at the first mention of a safe injecting site in the neighbourhood. While it’s tempting to mock this sort of ignorance-based nimbyism, it would be wiser to realise that anything that further erodes the troubled relationship between drug users and wider society should be treated carefully. Then there’s the inevitable political cost. By this I mean that admitting an area needs a safe injecting site is equivalent to admitting that a laundry list of policies – including housing, mental health, welfare and addiction polices – have all failed miserably, and politicians don’t like admitting and taking ownership of that kind of collection of failures. Persuading them otherwise takes a concerted effort – effort that could have been used to persuade them to adopt other, less glamorous, but more productive policies. Far too often substance misuse is an afterthought for politicians. Can the bandwidth they do devote to the subject be better used? Then there’s the bottom-line cost. Money is an ugly subject, but sadly it’s always relevant – especially in an age of austerity and government indifference. Before we go any further I keep hearing comments like ‘safe injecting sites can be cheap – you just need a tent and some works’. Guys, that’s not a safe injecting site. That’s a shooting gallery in a tent! Unfortunately the things that differentiate between a shooting gallery and a safe injecting site tend to be expensive and range from the cost of premises to the most important of all – the cost of suitable staff. Done right, a safe injecting site is not a cheap option. Importantly, it also needs pointing out that while offering a valuable service to the drug users who use them, the majority of drug users won’t use a safe injecting site. Not even a majority of IV drug users will use them – including me. I won’t use a safe injecting site because I’m fortunate enough to have a home. Even if I were homeless I wouldn’t travel far, pay for public transport, or spend 10 | drinkanddrugsnews | November 2018 www.drinkanddrugsnews.com