Brighton may make a safe space for drug users

- April 18, 2013

Drug users may be allowed to take drugs in safe spaces in Brighton and Hove.

The idea is one of several measures recommended in a report published this morning (Thursday 18 April).

The report looks at ways to reduce the harm that drugs cause in the area and was produced by the Independent Drugs Commission for Brighton and Hove.

The commission includes Brighton author Peter James, the bestselling crime writer, and former deputy drugs tsar Mike Trace.

Their report says that drug “consumption rooms” should be considered as a way to reduce drug-related deaths in Brighton and Hove.

It also suggests that more people should be trained to administer a life-saving overdose antidote.

Peter James

Peter James

The commission suggests that real-time data on supply routes and drug-taking trends, such as new “legal highs”, should also be collected.

The information would be used to help police with enforcement as well as those providing education and treatment to respond more quickly to changing trends.

Those behind the report recognise that their proposals are likely to be controversial with many people but believe that they will also make life safer for the wider public.

Safe spaces for drug taking may, for example, reduce the number of needles left in parks, playgrounds and other public places.

The report follows a year-long investigation which looked at how local services could best reduce the harm caused by drugs.

The commission consists of 10 independent experts. They have worked over the past year to review the challenges presented by illegal drug markets and drug use in Brighton and Hove, and the effectiveness of responses.

Their work was supported by Brighton and Hove City Council, and representatives from Sussex Police, Surrey and Sussex Probation Trust and local NHS organisations.

They conducted a series of discussions and consultations, and have produced a set of conclusions and recommendations.

Brighton and Hove shed the title of Britain’s “drugs death capital” in February. New figures showed the city standing in 8th position nationally with 9 deaths per 100,000 residents aged over 16 years.

This was the equivalent to 20 deaths compared with 2000 when 67 people died from substance misuse in Brighton and Hove.

Drug use remains high, according to the commission. It estimates that more than 60,000 people in Brighton and Hove have used illegal drugs. And it says that more than 2,000 of them are problem heroin and cocaine users.

More than 1,400 people attended treatment services in Brighton and Hove in the 2011-12 financial year with heroin, crack cocaine, powder cocaine and cannabis the main problem drugs.

Councillor Rob Jarrett

Councillor Rob Jarrett

The report recommends that drug services for young people should also be separated from those for adults so that younger users don’t have to mix with older more established users.

It also says that there should be more creative use of the internet and social media as part of education, intervention and support services for young people.

The commission’s report will be considered by the Safe in the City Partnership Board which meets on Tuesday 30 April and is chaired by council chief executive Penny Thompson. It includes representatives from the police and probation service.

It will also be considered by the new Health and Wellbeing Board which includes representatives of the council and the local NHS. It is next due to meet on Wednesday 12 June.

The vice-chairman of the Independent Drugs Commission for Brighton and Hove Mike Trace said: “This has been a thorough investigation involving drug users themselves, other people affected by drugs, key agencies and leading experts in Brighton and Hove to try to come up with ideas to minimise the harm that drugs cause the city.

“I am delighted that so many people took part in this commission’s work, particularly young people, and those affected by drug use, as well as treatment and policy experts.

“By bringing key people together in the same room, the commission has helped open up the discussion to make sure services in the city are working in the best way to reduce the harm caused by drugs.”

Councillor Rob Jarrett, chairman of the adult care and health committee, said: “Brighton and Hove has had a problem with drug abuse for decades and we’re determined to do something about it so we take these recommendations very seriously.

“These recommendations should help us strengthen our existing pioneering services that are now tailored to users and delivering real results to help combat the problem.”

Brighton and Hove director of public health Tom Scanlon said: “We have a relatively high number of drug users in the city and in the past we have had high numbers of drug-related deaths.

“So we welcome these recommendations and will work closely with key partners to make sure that the ideas in the report complement our work on helping people fully recover.

“We have come a long way from the peak in 2000 when 67 Brighton and Hove residents died from drug use.

“While this has fallen to 20 deaths, each of these still represents a personal tragedy for the person concerned and for families and friends.

“We have made progress in part by working much better across health, social care, housing and the voluntary sector through having named key workers for clients.

“We trained hundreds of drug users’ and their partners on how to administer life-saving antidotes in the event of opiate overdose.

“Crucially, we now also have a care pathway that focuses on full recovery, quickly following up on people who drop out of treatment and bringing them back into care so that they can live full, drug-free lives.”

The commission was set up after a meeting called by Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion.

She was supported in her call for drug laws to be reformed by the former police commander for Brighton and Hove, Chief Superintendent Graham Bartlett.

Around the same time Mike Weatherley, the Conservative MP for Hove, held a conference on drugs policy which Dr Lucas, police and policymakers attended.


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