1. ITV Report

Brighton considers safe havens for drug addicts

A man smoking a cannabis joint Photo: PA/PA Wire

Drug consumption rooms should be considered in a city once dubbed the drugs death capital of the UK to help cut the number of fatalities from substance misuse, according to a report.

Brighton and Hove could become the first city in the country to offer safe, clean havens for addicts to use illegal drugs under professional supervision without fear of prosecution, if the proposal moves forward.

As part of a series of measures aimed at cutting the harm drugs cause in the East Sussex city, public health leaders have also recommended that more people should be trained to administer a life-saving overdose antidote.

And drug services for young people should be separated from those for adults to avoid younger users mixing with older, more experienced addicts, the report published today adds.

The report, from the Independent Drugs Commission for Brighton and Hove, follows an investigation which examined how services can reduce the devastation caused by drugs.

A 10-strong panel of experts from the commission has been looking at the challenges thrown up by illegal drug markets, drug use and the effectiveness of the responses to them.

Real-time data on supply routes and drug-taking trends should be collected so that education, treatment and enforcement can be applied more rapidly, the report also suggests.

Mike Trace, the commission's vice chairman, 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."

Although Brighton and Hove has shed its crown as the UK's drugs death capital, substance misuse in the city remains stubbornly high. In 2000, 67 residents died a drug-related death, with the figure now standing at around 20.

The commission said that more than 2,000 people are considered problem heroin and cocaine users and that more than 60,000 people in the city have used illegal drugs.

Rob Jarrett, chairman of the city council's 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."

Tom Scanlon, Brighton and Hove's director of public health, 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."

More than 90 drug consumption rooms have been set up worldwide since the mid 1980s, including in Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Norway and Canada.

They are professionally supervised healthcare facilities where drug users can use substances in safe and hygienic conditions.

They aim to establish contact with difficult-to-reach users, according to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction.

But they have proved controversial, with concerns that they may encourage drug use, delay treatment entry and aggravate problems among local drug markets.

The commission's report will be considered by the Safe in the City Partnership Board on April 30.