Are drugs consumption rooms the answer to public heroin use?

Drugs consumption rooms have been opened in several countries across Europe. Credit: ITV News

Growing signs of heroin being used in Manchester's public parks and streets has prompted calls to find a more radical solution to public drug taking.

An ITV News investigation found dozens of needles and cooking spoons in the corner of just one park.

And it's not just a potential risk to the public.

The grim reality for many addicts is that they have easy access to drugs - but no where to take them. Injecting in dirty parks and alleyways, it's challenging to keep needles and skin clean.

Heroin users told us that using in such spaces was leading to health problems among the homeless community - including HIV and septicaemia.


The drug support service Change, Grow, Live believes that increased drugs litter is partially down to heroin users losing the more remote brownfield sites where they used to inject.

Users are being driven to more visible spots such as city centre parks and alleyways.

People are injecting in areas impossible to sterilise. Credit: ITV News

But what can be done to keep heroin off the streets - and keep users and members of the public safe from dirty needles?

This is one current solution: a sharps bin.

Heroin users are given these boxes at needle exchanges so that they have somewhere to discard their needles after they've injected.

People are encouraged to dispose of needles safely. Credit: Lynne Cameron/PA

Dr Lucy Webb from Manchester Metropolitan University has spent years researching substance misuse.

She says the boxes are much better than nothing, but are by no means a perfect solution.

We asked her to show us what she meant:

In Denmark they've taken the radical step of opening drugs consumption rooms.

These are sterile spaces where users can bring their own heroin - but are offered clean needles, health support, and advice for what rehab services are available.

Drugs consumption rooms give people a sterile environment to inject their own drugs. Credit: ITV News

There have been no fatalities from overdose within these rooms - which has led to calls for them to be introduced in the UK.

Risha Lancaster lost her brother Craig to a heroin overdose. He died in a public car park on his own.

Craig White died of a heroin overdose in a public park. Credit: Family

And calls for a trial of safe inspection rooms have been echoed by a Manchester City Councillor.

Rosa Battle believes that while needle exchanges have been effective in keeping people from using dirty equipment, it's doing little to prevent public heroin use in populated areas of the city.

Credit: ITV News

Safe injecting rooms are undeniably controversial, raising questions about funding, and the ethics of seeming to condone drug use.

But Risha says doing nothing is not an option:

Manchester City Council says there are legal barriers in place which means it has no plans to introduce these kind of safe consumption rooms.

Unless there's a change in UK law, alleyways and parks are the only injecting spaces many of Manchester's addicts will ever know.

You can watch the full report by Lise McNally below: