heroin

Can Drug Consumption Rooms Reduce Drug-related Harms in the UK?

Euan Hunt

With increasing use in Europe and recent discussion in the UK, it’s useful to explore what Drug Consumption Rooms really are and their impact.

Drug Consumption Rooms (DCRs), also known as “Overdose Prevention Centres” and more pejoratively as “shooting galleries” are healthcare facilities, usually run by charities or the state, where healthcare professionals supervise drug users to consume drugs in a safe environment. They provide safe and sterile paraphernalia (the biggest emphasis is placed on needles but smoking and inhalants can be tended to as well). As well as preventing overdoses, DCRs aim to reduce drug use in public and improve public amenity in areas surrounding urban drug markets. For example, in Barcelona, the number of unsafely disposed syringes being collected was at a monthly average of over 13,000 in 2004 which fell to around 3,000 in 2012 (Vecino et al., 2013). They also help addicts connect with addiction treatment and other support. Over half of them are open on a daily basis and are open for an average of eight hours a day.

"Our drug laws need fundamental review" - Dr Clare Gerada's speech at CDPRG launch

Dr Clare Gerada, 27th June 2019

I have been a GP for nearly three decades and before that a psychiatrist. All of this time I have worked with patients with substance misuse problems. First with the large number of heroin addicts we had in the 1980’s and 1990’s – which then moved to crack cocaine, other stimulants and more recently drugs such as mephedrone, ecstasy and its derivates and a whole host of drugs euphuistically called ‘club drugs’.