Carmarthen mother believes supervised 'drug room' could have saved her son Kevin Lane's life

  • Video report by West Wales reporter Jess Main

A woman whose son died following a heroin overdose says she believes he could have been saved by accessing a supervised drug consumption room - also known as an overdose prevention centre.

Pat Hudson's son Kevin Lane was found locked in a public toilet in Carmarthen town centre in December 2017, just after his 32nd birthday.

He had suffered cardiac arrest and brain damage following intravenous drug use, and a day later his family made the heartbreaking decision to switch off his life support.

Pat believes the "illegality and stigma" around drug use saw Kevin administer heroin behind a locked door, meaning he was not found until it was too late.

She says innovative new measures are needed to save lives and is backing calls to introduce Overdose Prevention Centres (OPCs) in the UK.

"No-one has ever died in an Overdose Prevention Centre," Pat said.

"I believe my son would be alive today, and several of his friends, had there been such a centre here in Carmarthen; somewhere safe for him to go."

Hundreds of lives are lost to drug use in the UK each year. Credit: Transform Drug Policy Foundation

OPCs are spaces where people can administer their drugs while supervised by trained staff, instead of hiding themselves away.

Staff also provide sterile needles and basic healthcare, and can refer people to drug treatment and support services.

There are around 150 centres operating worldwide - but the UK Government has previously said there are no plans to introduce them here, even on a trial basis.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We have no plans to introduce drug consumption rooms in the UK. A range of crimes would be committed in the course of running such facilities, by both service users and staff, such as possession of a controlled drug or knowingly permitting the supply of a controlled drug on a premises.

“The Home Office published a 10-year drugs strategy last month which will support people through treatment and recovery, as well as an even tougher response to criminal supply chains and the demand that fuels these illegal markets.”

The Home Office added that it is aware of the differing views on drug consumption rooms and will give due consideration to any new evidence.

Peter Krykant started the Overdose Prevention Service in 2020. Credit: Transform Drug Policy Foundation

On Monday 14 March, an ambulance converted into an OPC visited Llanelli in a bid to showcase what a permanent unit could look like locally.

It was founded by Peter Krykant in 2020 and was previously used in Glasgow to supervise more than 1,000 injections by people using illegal drugs.

Peter said: “When I started the Overdose Prevention Service in 2020, it was always about showing that our drug laws are outdated and not fit for purpose.

"Little did I know we would gain national and international support. Operating four days a week, and supervising around five injections per hour, as well as helping reverse a number of overdoses that could have been fatal, we achieved a lot.

"However given the scale of mass street injecting, discarded needles, deaths and other health issues, we now need official sites across the UK."

A hand-made memorial of forget-me-not flowers for those who have lost their lives to drugs. Credit: Transform Drug Policy Foundation

Kevin's mother Pat, who now campaigns for safer drug control, added: "With the UK experiencing record levels of overdose deaths we need to start introducing innovative harm reduction measures, like Peter's van, to stop our loved ones from dying.

"Even in a small community like ours, an Overdose Prevention Centre would save several lives every year. It would also provide advice to those concerned about their drug use and help to break down the stigma that limits the effectiveness of other harm reduction measures."

Pat says she believes drug dependency should be seen as a "medical issue, rather than a moral failing".

She describes Kevin as a skilled and experienced tree surgeon who loved his job, as well as a talented artist and sculptor, and an intelligent, sociable, funny, generous and kind man.

"He had a very wide circle of devoted friends and a lot to offer to society," she said.

"Two hundred people attended his funeral. I, his mother, the rest of his family, and his many friends are impoverished by his loss."

Figures suggest around 4,335 people in the UK died from drug use in 2020.

Today, hand-crafted 'forget-me-not' flowers were laid to form a memorial in Llanelli, with each bloom bearing the name of a person lost.