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It’s time for a drug consumption room in Bristol

Green Councillor Cleo Lake is calling for Bristol to launch a drug consumption room to give drug users a safer space with access to needles and specialist support.

In a motion to Bristol’s Full Council meeting next week, Councillor Lake will ask the Mayor to commit to delivering the recommendations of a study currently being undertaken by the Council’s substance misuse team. The Motion also calls for the Mayor to consider prescribing small regulated doses of heroin for those who have failed other treatments, as recommended by Public Health England.

Commenting Councillor Lake said:

“With drug related deaths on the increase in Bristol there is no time to waste. Encouraging heroin users off the streets will not only help to save lives, but also improve our communities and save us money. The evidence shows that these measures reduce deaths, blood borne diseases and hospital stays as well as reducing drug litter and community tension. They also make it more likely that people with drug problems will engage and stay engaged in treatment.”

Bristol resident Cara Lavan – partner of Jake Coe, who died of an accidental overdose - and campaigner for ‘Anyone’s Child’, an international network of families whose lives have been wrecked by current drug laws said:

“I warmly welcome this important motion, and urge the Mayor and all political parties to back it, as a first step towards a better drug policy for everyone in Bristol. Far too many people are needlessly dying from our failed drug laws. I believe that if Jake's drug use could’ve been treated as the medical issue that it was, rather than the criminal issue that it wasn’t, he would still be alive today." 

Bristol West MP Thangam Debbonaire has also supported calls for drugs consumption rooms in Bristol. In a speech in Parliament calling for them to be looked into she said:

"We already have a drug consumption room in Bristol: it is called Bristol. It is called the square outside my office, the doorstep into my office and the blocks of council flats at the side of my office. It is called virtually every part of the city centre. If we want to give our health service more money, if we want to make our streets safer, and if we want to save the lives of people who have drug addictions, as I do, we need to invest in drug consumption rooms.”


Green Motion to Full Council
Bristol Safer Drug Consumption Room and Heroin Assisted Treatment

Full Council notes that:

  1. Drug related deaths in Bristol have significantly increased over the past four years, with a record high of 37 individuals registered in 2016 according to the Office of National Statistics. In the latest figures for 2017, 41 people in Bristol have died from suspected drug related deaths, with 10 in October alone - the most ever recorded in a single month.
  2. Sharing needles puts people at risk of catching Blood Borne Viruses, most prominently HIV, hepatitis C (HCV) and hepatitis B (HBV). In Bristol 66.4% of injecting drug users have Hepatitis C - well above the national average.
  3. There is a widespread problem in Bristol with discarded needles and street drug use – impacting the public and business community.
  4. Street drug use and the resulting impacts have major cost implications for policing, public health, businesses and a range of council services.
  5. The government's expert advisory group - the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) - has called for both Safer Drug Consumption Rooms (DCR) and Heroin Assisted Treatment (where heroin is prescribed in a clinic). They note that the evidence demonstrates that these interventions reduce death rates, blood borne disease infections and other health problems, hospital stays, emergency call-outs, discarded drug litter, and street drug use. They also improve engagement and retention in treatment for otherwise difficult to reach vulnerable people, and do not lead to increased use.
  6. In its response to the ACMD, the Government recognised there is evidence supporting: “the effectiveness of drug consumption rooms in addressing the problems of public nuisance associated with open drug scenes, and in reducing health risks for drug users.” and that; “It is for local areas in the UK to consider, with those responsible for law enforcement, how best to deliver services to meet their local population needs.”
  7. Heroin Assisted Treatment is recommended for people for whom other forms of treatment have not worked, by Public Health England and in the Home Office Modern Crime Reduction Strategy. 44% of acquisitive crime is committed by dependent heroin users, and research from UK trials in Brighton, London and Darlington showed that Heroin Assisted Treatment can reduce acquisitive crime to pay for drug use by two-thirds. It can also cause a substantial fall in overall crime, and lead to a reduction in street dealing, and street sex work. It also reduces the profits organised criminals accrue from the heroin trade.
  8. The ACMD and numerous cost-benefit analyses have concluded that both Safer Drug Consumption Rooms and Heroin Assisted Treatment are cost effective. A business case carried out by the NHS in Glasgow in 2017 concluded a proposed facility there, combining both, would lead to millions of pounds worth of savings.
  9. A range of public service budgets stand to benefit from the positive impacts of Safer Drug Consumption Rooms and Heroin Assisted Treatment - including policing, ambulance services, the wider NHS, council waste services etc. Long term funding for the proposed Glasgow facilities will be drawn proportionately from all these areas to ensure that all contribute and benefit fairly.

Full Council believes that:

  1. Many of the most vulnerable people in Bristol are dying, while measures that have been shown to save both lives and money, and are recommended by the Government’s expert advisers, have not been fully considered.
  2. The evidence shows that Safer Drug Consumption Rooms and Heroin Assisted Treatment deliver significant health, social and economic benefits, not just to people who use drugs, but to the wider public and businesses. Implementing these measures has also been shown to deliver savings across health, crime and policing, business, parks and street cleaning, and other areas, that are substantially higher than the running costs. Therefore, on social and economic grounds, an assessment should be conducted as to the feasibility of delivering these measures in Bristol.

Full Council resolves to ask the Mayor:

  1. To publicly endorse the work of the Substance Misuse Team in carrying out a feasibility study in house to assess whether Heroin Assisted Treatment and/or a Safer Drug Consumption Room would have net benefits for Bristol as supported by Safer Bristol Executive at their meeting in January.
  2. To ensure that this study draws on existing research to assess the likely impacts on: drug related deaths, street drug use, discarded drug litter, anti-social behaviour, health, crime etc. It should also indicate which budgets, both within the council and beyond, would make cost-savings - e.g. policing, emergency services, hospital admissions etc.  This is to identify stakeholders who could be asked to contribute financially, to ensure fair, long term funding that benefits all those involved.
  3. Most importantly, to commit to fully implementing the findings and recommendations of the feasibility study so that the people of Bristol benefit as soon as possible – especially our most vulnerable citizens.

Motion to be moved by: Cllr Cleo Lake


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