They say: “No matter how often we tell them ‘just say no’, some people will want to inject themselves with illegal drugs.
“So to be truly compassionate, we could set up a room where they can inject themselves under supervision. Then, if they overdose, medical staff can give them an antidote on the spot to save their lives.”
Medically Supervised Injecting Centres/Rooms (MSICs or MSIRs) are already provided by state governments in Kings Cross NSW and Richmond Victoria. Another room is planned for Melbourne CBD.
The government-funded Alcohol and Drug Foundation is very supportive. It says while injecting drugs is not “exactly” safe, supervised facilities allow people to inject drugs with sterile equipment, avoid overdose deaths, and be referred to other services including general health, rehabilitation and treatment.
Sounds good. What could possibly go wrong?
Well quite a lot, according to Drug Free Australia.
This community organisation relies on donations from the public. It aims to support and educate young people, their families and communities to prevent any use of illegal drugs and the irresponsible use of legal drugs.
Drug Free Australia points out that providing a medically supervised injection room is an open invitation for addicts to take risks, knowing they will be revived if they overdose. Not surprisingly, there are many more overdoses in these facilities than on the streets.
But would you believe – 102 times more overdoses? In Victoria’s North Richmond facility in 2016, there were 23.5 overdoses per 1000 injections, compared with about 0.2 per 1000 on the streets.
In the Kings Cross MSIC that year, there were 14.6 overdoses per 1000 – again, a massive 63 times more in the government-funded facility than on the streets.
These staggering numbers of overdoses in Australia’s injecting rooms are caused by users experimenting with drug cocktails or increased opiate doses. This entails purchasing more drugs which must inevitably enrich local drug dealers.
Research data indicates injecting rooms do not improve local amenity. A survey of nearby residents after the North Richmond MSIR was established found fewer people now felt safe. Moreover, the number of discarded dirty needles has increased.
Research data also indicates that injecting rooms do not reduce transmissions of blood-borne viruses such as Hepatitis C. Injectors may indeed use the supervised facilities sometimes, but still share dirty needles with fellow addicts at other times.
Injecting rooms have very poor referral outcomes. Making an appointment for an addict to attend a detox/rehab centre is no guarantee that he or she will turn up.
Injecting rooms have also demonstrated a honey-pot effect, attracting dealers to the streets outside the facility – prompting expensive preventative policing operations
These policing operations have been mostly responsible for reductions in ambulance callouts for overdose in local areas, not injecting rooms.
Drug Free Australia pointed out on 18 June that the high cost (around $3 million per year) of saving just one life in an injecting room could pay for many users to enter rehab and become permanently drug-free, saving their lives.
Surely a no-brainer!
FamilyVoice is urging state governments to reject supervised injecting rooms and instead fund proven drug rehabilitation programs. Please pray that these governments will listen.
Peter Downie - National Director