Call for 'drug room' in Sheffield as deaths and paraphernalia clean-up call outs rise in Sheffield
A rise in drug deaths and paraphernalia clean-up call outs across Sheffield has prompted calls for a specialist room for addicts to take substances in.
New figures show between 2013 and 2015, drug-related deaths in Sheffield reached 24 - their highest levels since comparable records began.
The city has also seen a 158 per cent increase in call-outs to the council for the removal of drug-related litter between 2012/13 and 2016/17, increasing from 248 to 642.
The figures are thought to be an 'underestimate as not all drug-related litter is reported to the council', according to drug policy think-tank Volteface.
The group are calling for Sheffield Council to introduce a specialist 'drug room' - a facility where people can go and safely inject and take substances in a controlled environment and needles can be disposed of safely.
The think-tank said Sheffield should give 'serious consideration to introducing a drug consumption room' to follow pilots in Glasgow. Although it has been met with a legal challenge in the Scottish city, its' council said it 'still could happen'.
They added Sheffield could get around the current legislation if a pilot was introduced under 'police discretion'.
Campaigner say research shown the prevalence of drug-taking 'does not increase' in a particular city when a drug room is introduced and it is 'effective in reducing street injecting, the number of syringes discarded in a vicinity, drug-related deaths and needle sharing'.
A spokesman from the think-tank said: "An increase in this litter indicates that Sheffield has seen a rise in street injecting. Street injecting has been proven to increase the likelihood of people who use drugs to catch HIV, Hepatitis C, experiencing other injecting-related complications, such as abscesses, wounds, and deep vein thrombosis and overdosing.
"Sheffield must consider drug consumption rooms if it is serious about taking public injecting and discarded needles off the streets and reducing drug-related deaths."
Lord Ramsbotham, chair of the Drugs, Alcohol and Justice Cross-Party Parliamentary Group said: “The fact that drug related deaths are now at record levels, is the clearest possible indicator that existing policies are inadequate, and that new approaches and interventions are required.
"This carefully researched evidence of the viability of the Drug Consumption Rooms initiative in Dublin and Glasgow, suggests that the Government would do well to replicate them in other areas of the United Kingdom. Such an introduction will both strengthen drug policy and save lives".
Julie Cooper, Shadow Minister for Community Health: “I am extremely concerned about the level of deaths arising from drug abuse and I would be supportive of new measures to address this.
"As a former pharmacy owner with first-hand experience of people struggling with drug addiction and the effects on the wider community, I know that there are no simple answers. In principle I am not against drug consumption rooms and look forward to assessing the impact of the Glasgow pilot.”
Similar schemes have been set up in Denmark, Greece, Canada and Germany to great success.
Councillor Cate McDonald, cabinet member for health and social care, said: “There are no ‘drug consumption rooms’ in the UK at the moment and a proposal for one in Glasgow is being met with legal challenge. It is unlikely that any other area would look to introduce one while this was happening.“In Sheffield, the number of people using drugs is in line to what we would expect for a city of our size. But one death caused by drugs is one too many, and we work hard to keep people safe.“We encourage drug users to use needle exchange services which are provided at various sites across the city, where they can return used equipment safely. And we fund the city’s substance misuse services, which are delivered by more than 80 pharmacies, from centrally located treatment centres and via a mobile van.“We encourage drug users to get help and treatment. More people than ever are seeking and successfully completing treatment. Help is available for anyone affected by drugs and services are open access, which means people can refer themselves without going through a GP, and if they walk in they are guaranteed to be seen by a worker there and then, for immediate support.”
"We clear drug waste and urge anyone aware of it to contact us urgently online at www.sheffield.gov.uk or by calling 0114 273 4567."