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Dublin: 5 °C Monday 27 January, 2020

Tents, gated lanes and abandoned sites: How street-based injecting shapes everyday life in our cities

Injecting has an impact on our everyday environment that perhaps we don’t realise, writes Tony Duffin, CEO of Ana Liffey Drug Project.

Tony Duffin CEO of the Ana Liffey Drug Project

THE OTHER EVENING I was sat in my car on Connaught St waiting for the traffic lights to change from red to green when my daughter asked me why we have to ask staff in that restaurant – she actually named a very well-known burger chain – for a code if we want to use their toilet.

I explained that it was a way of them managing access for customers only to use their toilets and to try and reduce antisocial behaviour. Like injecting drugs.

This conversation got me thinking about the many ways Street-based Injecting – the practice of injecting drugs in public or semi-public places – has an impact on our everyday environment that perhaps people don’t realise.

The following are just some examples of the impact of Street-based Injecting in Dublin City Centre:

Drug Related Litter

I have spent many years photographing the concerning level of drug related litter, on the streets of Dublin City Centre, and posting the images to social media.

It doesn’t take much to find this refuse. Paper wrappers blow along our streets, makeshift crack pipes, needles, syringes and such are found lying in our alleyways, parks and other public nooks and crannies.

Drug-related litter is a potential risk to any passer-by, but is a particular risk to people who inject drugs and refuse workers and it is also damaging to the environment.

Derelict Sites

Derelict sites, where forced access is possible, are often locations where Street-based injecting occurs in Dublin City Centre, one example of this is on Capel St.

Capel St is a historically significant street which was established in the 17th Century. On 12 Feb 2010 there was an arson attack at a site on Capel Street. The arson attack led to the building being demolished. Almost 10 years later the site remains derelict. The other day as I looked in from the street, I could see traces of drug-related litter associated with street-based Injecting.


Gated alleyways

Gates have been installed to prevent access to alleyways where drug use and antisocial behaviour had been taking place. Below are examples of two such alleyways where street-based injecting, and other antisocial behaviours, regularly occurred.

Telephone boxes

Telephone boxes remain on some Dublin City Centre Streets – some are in disrepair and out of order. The glass panels often have advertising on them, with the effect that it is difficult to see inside them. This is where some people go to inject and/or smoke drugs like heroin and crack.


More recently tents have become a common sight on the streets of the capital.

Used by people who sleep rough, there’s no doubt that a tent will keep a person warmer and dryer.

Tents are also used by some people as discrete spaces to use drugs. A space that offers a level of privacy – away from the eyes of passersby. Unfortunately, using drugs in a tent can increase drug-related risks – not least of all because when someone is hidden away, it increases the risk of not being found when an overdose occurs.


In recent years, special refuse bins for drug-related litter have been strategically placed in areas affected by street-based injecting.

They are used by people who inject drugs and can be moved if street-based injecting moves to another area. These bins are an effective response to drug-related litter and are one way of reducing risks to people who inject drugs, refuse workers and any other passersby.

However, they are not widely used as a policy measure in Dublin City Centre.

What are we to do?

These are just some examples of how street-based injecting shapes our environment and our experience of everyday life in Dublin City Centre.

There would be similar experiences in other parts of Dublin and indeed the rest of Ireland – Cork, Galway, Limerick.

Of course, there are more ways that drug use, and indeed drug markets, impact upon us. So, what are we to do to improve the situation?

Locally, the Pilot Supervised Injecting Facility must be established and evaluated.

A service designed to take street-based injecting off of our streets – I have no doubt that a well-run pilot service will be a success.

TOILET Locked public toilet in Dublin Source: Aoife Barry/

As can be seen, from the examples above, street-based injecting is a problem right across the city centre; as such, and all things being equal, more supervised injecting facilities will be needed in the future to successfully respond to the problem.

Nationally, Ireland has a good overall plan – ‘Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery’ Ireland’s National Drug strategy 2017 to 2025.

Within this strategy there are many actions that, when successfully implemented, will manage the situation better and reduce the overall drug problem.

For example, the huge potential of implementing an effective health diversion scheme for the possession of small quantities of drugs for personal use; and all the benefits that will bring.

Tony Duffin is the CEO of Ana Liffey Drug Project

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About the author:

Tony Duffin  / CEO of the Ana Liffey Drug Project

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