London should ‘lead the way’ in tackling drug-related deaths by piloting drug consumption rooms and other harm reduction schemes, according to a new report.
The London Assembly’s health committee released a new report on Thursday which called on London Mayor Sadiq Khan to work with the government and police to take a new approach to tackling drug deaths in the capital city.
It comes as deaths from drug abuse remain at the highest level in England and Wales since comparable records began. Almost 3,000 people died from drug abuse in England and Wales in 2020, with 296 deaths in London.
Following expert testimony given at City Hall in December, the cross-party health committee recommended London pilot the use of drug consumption rooms – spaces where drugs can be consumed under medical supervision to prevent overdoses.
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The report also recommends the introduction of drug checking at venues and events in London to allow users to test the potency and content of any substances they may intend to use.
Caroline Russell, who chairs the Assembly’s health committee, said such measures could “begin to bring down the growing number of people who are unfortunately dying from problematic drug use” if implemented. works in London.
Despite fears that systems such as drug consumption rooms and drug control could lead to increased drug use, the non-profit drug harm reduction organization The Loop said it there was “no evidence” to support these claims.
Several organizations across the UK, including West Midlands Police, the Transform Drug Policy Foundation and the Royal Society for Public Health, have called for drug testing to be rolled out nationwide.
Although the health committee called on the mayor of London to implement trials of harm reduction programmes, Steve Rolles – who represented The Loop at the evidence gathering session in December – said he was time to move beyond pilots.
Mr Rolles said: “There are hundreds of drug control services in Europe and around the world. They have been tested in the UK, both at festivals and events, and in city centres… This is not new territory… We have done pilots, we know they work. We don’t do pilots anymore.
Sadiq Khan has also been told to work with the Metropolitan Police to ensure officers regularly carry naloxone, which is a potentially life-saving drug for someone who has overdosed.
The government this week released the latest responses to a closed consultation of key stakeholders on expanding access to naloxone. Sixty-three percent of respondents said naloxone was difficult to access in the event of an overdose, while 93 percent said they were totally okay with police carrying the drug on their person.
The results of the consultation showed “overwhelming support” for expanding access to naloxone, and the Department of Health and Social Care said it “will work with devolved governments to consider policy options to move forward this over the next few months.”
During his re-election campaign last year, Sadiq Khan pledged to set up a “drugs commission” which would examine the potential for decriminalizing cannabis in London.
Although no official announcement has been made about the formation of a drugs commission, the health committee expects it to be launched “later this year”.
A spokesman for the Mayor of London said: ‘The Mayor recognizes that there is growing demand for a debate on our drugs laws, and work is underway to establish the London Drugs Commission of independent experts who will examine the latest evidence from around the world, with a particular focus on cannabis.
“The commission will review the effectiveness of our Drugs Act and make policy recommendations on how to improve the situation of Londoners, reducing the enormous harm that drugs like cannabis cause to our communities and society.”
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This notice was published: 2022-03-22 12:00:00