Daragh Brophy/

Dublin will be getting its first drug injection centre within 18 months

There were 86 poisoning deaths in 2013 where heroin was involved.

Updated 8.10pm

DRUGS MINISTER AODHÁN Ó Ríordáin has said that a supervised injection centre in Dublin will be in place within 12 to 18 months – if legislative blockages are “unblocked”.

Last month, Ó Riordáin gave a speech in London where he backed the de-criminalisation of possessing small amounts of drugs.

Later on that same week, he spoke on radio about introducing medically supervised injection centres in Dublin where drug users could go to inject themselves.

Speaking today at the launch of figures on drug deaths from the Health Research Board (HRB), he added that the plan, which will see one centre located in central Dublin, is attracting interest from drugs task forces around the country.

The cabinet today approved the drafting of legislation that will enable licences to be issued for the establishment of supervised injecting facilities.

A pilot service, at an as-yet unidentified site in Dublin city centre, will be established by the HSE or an NGO under a service-level agreement.

Drug use would take place in a licensed, clinical environment. While nursing and social care staff would supervise the facility, and provide emergency intervention in the event of an overdose, they will not be able to assist in administering drugs.

The HRB’s figures show that there were 86 poisoning deaths in 2013 where heroin was involved. Two in five of those who died were not alone at the time of their death, something the HRB said shows lives could have been saved.

Ó Ríordáin said that the centre would be in a “location where people are well used to dealing with this kind of clientele” adding that people should not have reservations about the centre because it provides a safer alternative.

“It’s a new departure for Irish drugs policy, so I want to be sensitive about how I approach it.

But, to be honest, no matter where you live, you probably have somebody injecting heroin pretty near you unsafely and leaving paraphernalia behind them. That may be a bus, a park or a playground.

“So having it in a controlled, humane and hygienic setting would be better. We have to move beyond this idea of scaremongering.”

Ó Ríordáin said in his remarks that “heroin is not an old problem”.

He and the government were praised by Tony Duffin from the Ana Liffey Drug Project for “using evidence-based solutions to our addiction issues”.

A government spokesperson said the injecting centre planned for Dublin would provide a supervised space where drug addicts can self-administer drugs and immediate care can be given the event of an overdose.

They cited an example of a centre in Copenhagen where a number of overdose cases were treated successfully.

The Misuse of Drugs Acts would continue to be enforced and the proposed changes do not amount to legalisation or decriminalisation of drugs, a government source insisted this evening.

“Our staff deal every day with the reality and complexity of public injecting,” Duffin, who has campaigned in support of an injection centre, said this evening.

“Each day many people with complex addiction and mental health issues inject drugs in public spaces. This is bad for them and everybody else, and implementing medically-supervised injecting centres is a compassionate and effective response to a complex problem.”

- additional reporting from Hugh O’Connell and Daragh Brophy. 

Read: The needles on the cobbles are nothing new – but the human excrement is shocking

Read: Heroin deaths on the rise in Ireland for the first time in four years

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