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International experts back Irish drug injection centre plan

Such centres already exist in countries like Australia, Germany, Spain and Canada.

Updated at 2.30pm

AN INTERNATIONAL GROUP of experts has welcomed plans to introduce medically supervised injection centres in Ireland, saying the move will help to tackle the problem of public injecting as well as facilitating access to treatment.

The backing comes ahead of an international drug policy conference in London this November that will focus on the current situation in Ireland.

Minister of State for the National Drugs Strategy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has been vocal in his support for legislation that would introduce injection centres in Ireland before the next election.

Praising the proposal, Dr John Collins, the coordinator of the London School of Economics’ International Drug Policy Project, said evidence points to the need to replace punitive criminal justice with health-based policy measures.

“Supervised injecting facilities are in line with this approach, and have been shown to be cost effective in other jurisdictions,” he said.

Dr Rick Lines, head of Harm Reduction International, a global NGO that promotes evidence-based drug polices, said Ireland’s approach has the potential to “make a real difference”.

The evidence internationally is overwhelming that drug use is best dealt with as a health, not a criminal justice issue, and that taking punitive approaches deliver poor value to taxpayers in terms of outcomes achieved.

Supervised injecting facilities, he said, “have a significant evidence base pointing to their efficacy”.

Dr Ethan Nadelmann, the executive director of Drug Policy Alliance, an American organisation working to end the war on drugs, has also expressed support for the plan, saying the failures of prohibition are “painfully obvious”.

download Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Source: Sam Boal

Precedent

Supervised injection centres already exist in countries such as Australia, Germany, Spain and Canada.

While some critics fear the policy could encourage illegal behaviour, others say the centres are critical to addressing drug use in Ireland.

Tony Duffin, the director of the Ana Liffey Drug Project, a drop-in service for drug addicts, has been lobbying for the introduction of supervised injection facilities since 2012.

“Drug use has changed,” he said in an interview with TheJournal.ie last year.

We need to accept, as a society, that it is not realistic to expect to be able to stop all drugs entering the country, or to be able to eliminate problem drug use.
Not only do [supervised injection centres] contribute to reducing public injecting and unsafe disposal, they also help people attending to tackle their addictions through dedicated access to treatment programmes.

Read: Dublin’s new mayor wants supervised injection centres for drug addicts

Read: Why have gardaí and Revenue still not destroyed nearly €500 million worth of drugs?

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Catherine Healy

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