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Why 'fix rooms' might be an answer to Scotland's drug problems

STV News visited Denmark to understand the benefits of drug consumption facilities.

So-called 'fix rooms' for drug addicts would have major benefits in Scotland, the founders of a successful network in Denmark have told STV.

MSPs want to open a drug consumption room in Glasgow, however it would be illegal under current legislation and the Home Office has so far refused to give its approval.

Calls for addicts to be provided with a 'safe space' have been reignited by rising HIV figures in the city.

Dozens of countries worldwide do have similar facilities where people can safely use heroin and cocaine.

STV News visited a unit in Copenhagen were one million drugs hits have been taken over the last seven years.

One user told us: "I'm one of the lucky ones. If you overdose in an apartment they just rob you, but here they save lives 110%."

Michael Lodberg Olsen, who runs Antidote Danmark, believes Scotland would benefit from having a network of consumption rooms.

https://stv.tv/news/scotland/1410864-do-drug-consumption-rooms-hold-the-answer-to-glasgow-s-heroin-problem/ | default

He said: "The best solution for safety for drug addicts and a better community is smaller units around the city.

"Drug users are all around town - don't create one big centre which makes drug users different from you and me - we need more facilities around the city."

At Skyen, in the Danish capital's red-light district, there have been 800 overdoses, but no deaths because of the availability of urgent specialist help.

Centre manager Rasmus Koberg Christiansen explained how the unit has close contact with treatment services to help addicts get off drugs and find housing.

He believes treating drugs as a public health problem rather than a criminal matter has the backing of local police.

https://stv.tv/news/west-central/1436421-drug-consumption-room-would-save-lives-uk-government-told/ | default

He said: "The police before got a lot of calls from people saying 'there are drug users in my back yard, can you come and get them out'.

"Now those calls don't happen because users are not taking drugs in public, they're at the drug consumption room."

The calls to allow 'fix rooms' in Scotland have political support from all the mainstream parties except for the Conservatives.

Drugs laws in the UK are reserved to Westminster and the Home Office has warned drug consumption units would be illegal.

In Denmark, though, previous opponents of the system now take a pragmatic view.

Liselott Blixt, health spokesperson for the Danish People's Party, said: "To have a nurse helping people inject illegal stuff in their body we thought was the wrong signal.

"But now it has been there for several years and in the area the citizens are happy for it.

"They say there's not so many needles on the ground now and fewer people sleeping in doorways."

Analysis: 'Fix rooms have cleaned up city'

STV News senior reporter Gordon Chree

Nothing can prepare you for walking into a room where people are openly injecting drugs.

But there is a largely calm atmosphere in the drug consumption room - with staff on hand to deal with any overdoses.

Both users and workers say if the drugs were not being taken there, they'd be taken on the street or in flats where the risk of death is ever present.

Copenhagen's large central facility has cleaned up a part of the city which was once a no-go area for the public and now has up-and-coming streets with fashionable restaurants.

But the concern is this social change doesn't benefit outlying estates with their own drug problems - and that's why there are now moves to get mobile units running to help improve things away from the city centre.

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