Breaking the Taboo: Why we support drug consumption rooms(DCR's)

 Drug Consumption - Breaking the Taboo

Drug consumption rooms (DCR’s) or safe consumption facility(SCF) are supervised facilities where drug users can safely consume drugs with protection and support from trained staff and medical professionals. Initiatives such as these have been in place across Europe for some 30 years,working towards preventing the transfer of disease and fatal overdoses. By facilitating safe consumption, these facilities are then able to connect high-risk drug users with addiction treatment and other health services. This supervision can be extended beyond injectable drugs and can be adapted to factor in the observation of inhalable drug users.

To the more conservative of readers, facilitating drug consumption may some to be somewhat counterproductive to society. There are a number of wider secondary societal benefits generated by consumption rooms.

Drug Consumption rooms:

1.      Reduce the prevalence of public injecting (Salmon et al., 2007).

2.      Decrease the number of publicly discardedneedles, in Barcelona the number of collected syringes dropped from 13,132 in2004, to 3,190 by 2012 (Vecino et al., 2013).

3.      Significantly reduce the burden of opioid-related overdoses on ambulance call outs (Salmon et al., 2010).

4.      Offer the potential to reduce the prevalence of street disorder and encounters with police (DeBeck et al., 2011).

5.      Reductions in behaviour that increase the riskof HIV-transmissions (MILLOY and WOOD, 2009).

The societal benefits gained from the existence of drug consumptions rooms are multifaceted and have numerous down stream effects that ultimately conserve vital funds and supplies, whilst also supporting highly marginalised members of society. By addressing drug addiction in a way that humanises those effected, the underlying issues which cause these individuals to turn to drugs may then also be tackled.

For many, traumatic events have plagued their life from an early age. Adverse Childhood Events (ACE’s) might include exposure to or experience of psychological, physical, or sexual abuse; household dysfunction; or living with household members who were substance abusers,mentally ill or suicidal, or ever imprisoned (Hughes et al., 2017; Felitti et al., 2019).

Individuals who have experienced four or more of childhood exposure compared to those with no exposure are four to twelve times more likely to suffer from alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, or from a suicide attempt (Felitti et al., 2019). The damaging effects of ACE’s can even extend to sexual health, mental health, weight, physicalexercise, violence and physical health status.

As a nation we are currently failing the public by neglecting drug users who are often some of the most vulnerable members of our society. As our knowledge surrounding these issues increases, we will become increasingly aware of the factors that precede substance abuse and ultimately move towards a system wherewe are able to identify the individuals who are most at risk and provide support before addictions can be established.

 This issue is not limited to hard drug use. As cannabis markets open up, we must ask ourselves, where will all of this cannabis be consumed and how can we facilitate safe consumption?



DeBeck, K. et al.(2011) ‘Injection drug use cessation and use of North America’s first medicallysupervised safer injecting facility’, Drug and Alcohol Dependence,113(2–3), pp. 172–176. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2010.07.023.

Felitti, V. J. et al. (2019) ‘Relationship of Childhood Abuse andHousehold Dysfunction to Many of the Leading Causes of Death in Adults: TheAdverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study’, American Journal of PreventiveMedicine. Elsevier, 56(6), pp. 774–786. doi: 10.1016/J.AMEPRE.2019.04.001.

Hughes, K. et al. (2017) ‘The effect of multiple adverse childhoodexperiences on health: a systematic review and meta-analysis.’, The Lancet.Public health. Elsevier, 2(8), pp. e356–e366. doi:10.1016/S2468-2667(17)30118-4.

MILLOY, M. ‐J. and WOOD, E. (2009) ‘[Commentary] EMERGING ROLE OFSUPERVISED INJECTING FACILITIES IN HUMAN IMMUNODEFICIENCY VIRUS PREVENTION’, Addiction.John Wiley & Sons, Ltd (10.1111), 104(4), pp. 620–621. doi:10.1111/j.1360-0443.2009.02541.x.

Salmon, A. M. et al. (2007) ‘Five years on: What are the communityperceptions of drug-related public amenity following the establishment of theSydney Medically Supervised Injecting Centre?’, International Journal ofDrug Policy, 18(1), pp. 46–53. doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2006.11.010.

Salmon, A. M. et al. (2010) ‘The impact of a supervised injectingfacility on ambulance call-outs in Sydney, Australia’, Addiction,105(4), pp. 676–683. doi: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2009.02837.x.

Vecino, C. et al. (2013) ‘[Safe injection rooms and policecrackdowns in areas with heavy drug dealing. Evaluation by counting discardedsyringes collected from the public space].’, Adicciones, 25(4), pp.333–8. Available at: (Accessed: 2August 2019).