Leader comment: Time to acknowledge that fix rooms are needed

Designated places for heroin addicts to use drugs '“ fix rooms, or to use the more pejorative term shooting galleries '“ are not controversial in much of the rest of Europe: there are scores of them in Holland, Germany and Switzerland. They are long overdue in this country.

Fix rooms would at least be a point of contact for drug abusers who need help.

Glasgow in particular has very definite needs when it comes to tackling the drug problem. It has a lot of addicts who inject in Glasgow city centre, estimated at 500 people. An HIV outbreak is just the latest in a series of infectious diseases among addicts and the number of drug-related deaths in Glasgow went up in 2015.

Those against the setting up of such facilities usually focus on the issues of choice and personal will, and on the illegality of drug use. But leaving it solely to the criminal justice system is not the most pragmatic approach, and takes no account of the wider threats to public health it poses. Lets leave aside the issue of compassion for our fellow human beings and caring for the vulnerable, and just focus on the practicalities.

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Take even the most basic threat of used needles being left where they could infect someone who happens across one, or even infect someone who has been given the job of clearing them away – there have been thousands of used needles found on Scotland’s streets. And there is the impact that unofficial shooting galleries can have on communities – parents can fear to let children out without supervision, adults can feel there are “no go” areas. There have been initiatives to tackle some of these areas but largely they have been unable to come up with effective solutions.

The infectious diseases are a threat to all, and of course there is the wider impact on the NHS budget. It is in all of our interests to prevent the spread of disease as early as possible.

The people who inject drugs in public places live chaotic lives that are not going to improve unless they are helped, and even then it is not easy. The world they inhabit is one linked to crime – often crimes are committed to raise the money needed for drugs, sometimes criminal acts can be the price to be paid, so they can be expendables in the gangster underworld that surrounds and perpetuates the multi-million pound criminal enterprise that is drug dealing.

Take these vulnerable individuals out of that environment and there is the possibility of effective help and a life change. Leaving them be offers no hope of such an outcome. At least the fix rooms will be a point of contact, will mean there is a relationship.

It is believed by health professionals that unless these facilities are brought in, the situation on Glasgow’s streets will only get worse.

Yes, there should be help to get addicts free from drugs, but for some, for a period of time, providing somewhere more healthy for them to inject is the better option.

Lets hope that this initiative, still in the process of establishment, is fully up and running as soon as possible.