Leading drug charities call for medically supervised injecting rooms in Wales to make drug users safer.
Swansea has the highest rate of injecting in all of Wales, and also the highest rate of blood borne viruses such as Hep C amongst injecting drugs users whilst parts of the city have problems with discarded injecting equipment.
A conference being held on Wednesday 2nd March to mark the merging of two of Wales's leading drugs and alcohol agencies, will hear how medically supervised injecting rooms are being introduced more and more across the world, and a call will be made for their introduction in Wales.
Drugaid Cymru and Sands Cymru, two of Wales most established substance misuse agencies have joined forces to provide a comprehensive range of services and interventions to drug users, their families and communities across Wales.
The formal merger occurred on January 31st 2016, and the conference being held on Wednesday is to mark the coming together of the skills, experience and expertise of both agencies and to outline future plans.
The organisation will retain the name Drugaid Cymru and will have services from Monmouth to Aberystwyth and will be the largest provider of services to those affected by the misuse of drugs or alcohol in Wales.
The organisation will employ over 150 employees and up to 50 volunteer workers.
The key note speaker at the conference will be Dawn Russell, from the Ana Liffey Drugs Project in Dublin who have been leading the call for the introduction of medically supervised injecting rooms (MSIR) in Ireland.
The Irish Government cabinet recently approved and supported the establishing of MSIR in response to the growing injecting problem in the city, to try and address drug related deaths and overdose, reduce the level of discarded equipment in the city, addressing anti social behaviour and encouraging more users to engage with treatment options.
A deputation from Drugaid Cymru recently visited Dublin to discuss the plans there, and the organisations chief executive officer, Caroline Phipps, recently visited the injecting rooms in Sydney Australia.
Caroline Phipps, Drugaid Cymru Chief Executive, said, "There was an overwhelming feeling that having the consumption rooms in Sydney had helped on several levels, from offering medial support to those in need, but it had also led to improvements in the community with less discarded injecting equipment to what was described as anti-social behaviour.
"We have a responsibility to consider what options have proved successful elsewhere"
Supervised injecting rooms have been established in several countries including Germany, Spain, Luxemburg, Denmark, Netherlands, Norway Switzerland, Canada, Australia and plans are in place to establish ones in Portugal and Ireland.
Evidence from both Australia and other countries indicates that MSIR are an effective way of reducing some of the harms associated with injecting drug use, including:
- Numbers of overdoses (including fatal and non-fatal)
- Public littering of injecting equipment
- Reaching problematic injecting drug users and providing pathways and opportunities for treatment and support
- Infection rates of transmissible diseases such as Hepatitis C
- Harm to people who inject drugs, such skin abscesses and damaged veins
- Drug-related loitering, drug dealing or petty crime in areas in the area
- Healthcare costs including ambulance call-outs and hospital admission.
Ifor Glyn Drugaid Cymru Regional Director said, "Nobody wants to see people inject drugs - but sadly its a fact of life in Swansea as elsewhere. It was only last week I saw somebody openly injecting himself in the door way of a shop during the day time.
"Consumption rooms are a public health initiative, keeping people alive, keep people safe, reducing the level of public drug taking, and reducing discarded needles and syringes.
"There is growing evidence of the effectiveness of these consumption rooms from many countries, and it is time to consider would they help address issues in places such as Swansea"
For the past two years, drug related deaths in Wales have been falling and Welsh government initiatives such as Naloxone has played a significant part in achieving this.
The conference will hear that consumption rooms would compliment work that is already being done in Wales
Ifor Glyn added, "A lot of good work regarding drug related deaths and overdose is going on in Wales - but we shouldn't rest on our laurels. During the past few weeks we have heard of tragedies in Swansea and nearby Llanelli with people dying having taken drugs.
"Staff at Drugaid Cymru in Swansea have dealt with over 25 overdoses during the past few years and without interventions such as naloxone we would be seeing far greater number of deaths in Wales.
"We are seeing individuals openly inject in public and we should not and cannot ignore this. It is quite obvious from years of criminalising people that this approach doesn't work - we need to consider what is happening in other countries and take notice of what works elsewhere and the available evidence"
David Cameron in 2012 voted in favour of medically supervised injecting rooms.