Inquiry considers ‘safe’ rooms for drug addicts to cut Blackpool death rate

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Providing addicts with a ‘consumption room’ in Blackpool where they could take drugs more safely could help reduce the number of deaths in the resort, a new report has proposed.

 

Figures show around a third of fatal drug overdoses in the town are among people who are alone at the time and so have no-one to either summon help or administer life-saving treatment.

Some countries, including Canada, have introduced drug consumption rooms where assistance is available should anything go wrong.

A report by councillors into the high number of drug related deaths in Blackpool considered whether the town should adopt a similar strategy but added such a move was currently illegal in the UK.

Councillors have investigated Blackpool's high rate of drug related deaths (picture PA)

Councillors have investigated Blackpool’s high rate of drug related deaths (picture PA)

The Drug Related Deaths Scrutiny Review called for a further report into whether this could be beneficial to Blackpool.

This would allow “members to determine whether to recommend that the council lobby the Government for a change to the law”.

Blackpool has one of the highest rates of deaths due to drug misuse in the country with 18.9 per 100,000 of the population between 2017 and 2019.

The most recent data suggests that trend is continuing with 42 deaths in 2020, of which 32 were male and 10 female with an average age of 48.

The inquiry was told the medicine Naloxone could reverse a drugs overdose with paramedics using it 396 times in Blackpool between August 2018 and August 2019, equating to more than once a day mainly to people who had taken a heroin overdose.

While Naloxone could be handed out to friends and family of addicts to help save them should they overdose, people who took drugs alone were more at risk of dying.

The report added: “In a number of other countries including Canada, drug consumption rooms had been introduced to address the issues of taking drugs alone.

“Such rooms were available for drug users to attend to consume their own drugs, which addressed any concerns that they might have to share their drugs with other users.

“On site Naloxone was available and professionals were on hand should anything go wrong and the drug user require assistance.

“Under UK law, drug consumption rooms were currently prohibited. However, members considered that a safe place for users to consume drugs would be beneficial.”

Analysis of data up to 2020 shows around three quarters of users who had died in Blackpool had been participating in drug treatment services, 33 per cent died alone, and 45 per cent had mental health problems.

The scrutiny report, which was approved by the executive at its meeting on Monday (October 11), made nine recommendations in total.

These included mapping where overdoses take place in order to better target resources, increase awareness about the use of Naloxone and the dangers of taking drugs alone, and investigate the costs of providing Heroin Assisted Treatment and Overdose Prevention Centres as part of existing services.