Dublin is to have its first Medically Supervised Injecting Centre in 2018. The pilot service will be established to respond to Dublin’s significant street based injecting problem. At a conservative estimate 400 people inject multiple times in the public domain in any given month. Street based injecting puts people at an elevated risk of overdose, blood borne viruses, vein damage, violence and stigma. It also impacts negatively on people who live, work and visit the area in which it occurs – impacting on the amenity of the area and frightening some people as they go about their business.
It’s obvious why we should do all we can to prevent injury, disease and death. If we don’t, it is devastating to the person, their family and friends, as well as having an impact on the wider community. However, it’s less obvious why it’s important to address stigma. Stigma is a barrier – it’s a barrier to meaningful engagement and a barrier to positive change. When someone feels judged by society about a certain behaviour, they feel shame. Think about it – nobody wants to be hidden down an alleyway surrounded by needles, blood and human excrement. Nobody would chose this for themselves. The reason people do this is because they have developed a drug dependency. A dependency so severe they will put their health and life at risk. Nobody is happy about street based injecting, least of all the people who have nowhere else to go and no option but to inject themselves in public.
For this group of vulnerable people, who are often poly-drug users with complex & multiple needs, the opening of the pilot Medically Supervised Injecting Centre in Dublin will provide them a sanctuary. Providing a safe space to inject that reduces the health risks and removes stigma – at least for the time people are in the service. This breathing space will allow for genuinely meaningful relationships to be formed far quicker. The evidence is clear that when you open up such a service you get people through to treatment and rehabilitation faster than otherwise.
Opening the Dublin Medically Supervised Injecting Centre will save lives and taxpayers money. We know lives will be saved as nobody has ever died of an overdose in any of the existing Medically Supervised Injecting Centres in other jurisdictions; and there’s reliable evidence that money is saved in mainstream health services beyond what is expended on a Medically Supervised Injecting Centre.
While I understand the provision of a Medically Supervised Injecting Centre is counterintuitive to some people, I hope they will listen to the evidence from around the world and get behind the pilot Dublin Medically Supervised Injecting Centre. A well run discreet service really will benefit us all.
Both photos credited to Tony Duffin, CEO Ana Liffey Drug Project.