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brisbanetimes.com.au, August 12, 2011

Brisbane injecting room 'a must'

The man behind the controversial Kings Cross injecting room says Brisbane must follow suit to provide a safe environment for addicts.
 
Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation president Alex Wodack said Brisbane had a different drug scene to Sydney, but the city needed to acknowledge it had a rising drug problem.
 
Dr Wodack, who works at St Vincent Hospital in Sydney, said imports of heroin were about to increase into Australia.
 
"The current trend is that drug production is going down in Afghanistan and going up in Burma," he said.
 
"And that is bad news for Australia, because Burma is the country that supplies Australia.
 
"So therefore we can anticipate that the heroin importation to Australia will be increasing in future years. I think that is inevitable."
 
Dr Wodack was last night guest speaker at a Queensland Council of Civil Liberties function, where the issue of a safe injecting room in Brisbane was debated.
 
He said there were now 88 drug injecting rooms in eight countries including the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Norway, Canada and at Sydney's Kings Cross.
 
Dr Wodack said up to 10 overdose deaths were prevented in Sydney and Vancouver each year.
 
The previous New South Wales government decided in 2010 to give recurrent funding to the King Cross centre after it accepted evidence it prevented injecting drug users dying in the streets.
 
Dr Wodack said Queensland faced a different drug problem.
 
"Queensland has a large pocket for some time in the southeast where amphetamine injecting has been very common," he said.
 
"That is around the Gold Coast and those sorts of areas."
 
A 2004 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare study showed 14,100 Queenslanders had injected either heroin, amphetamines or cocaine in the previous 12 months.
 
Dr Wodack said heroin was not as widely available in Queensland as it was in NSW, Victoria or the Australian Capital Territory.
 
"So it is not as scarce as it is in Tasmania or the Northern Territory, but it is like South Australia where it is 'intermediate'," he said.
 
Dr Wodack said users injecting amphetamines and prescription opiates were mainly a problem in southeast Queensland.
 
Sydney's Medically Supervised Injecting Rooms boast that:
 
  • it has successfully managed more than 3500 drug overdoses without a single fatality;
  • the number of publicly discarded needles and syringes has approximately halved in Kings Cross since MSIC opened;
  • there has been an 80 per cent reduction in ambulance call-outs to Kings Cross since MSIC was established, with the area immediately surrounding MSIC showing the greatest reduction; and
  • MSIC has made more than 8500 referrals to health and social welfare services. Of these, about half were referrals to addiction treatment.
Both Queensland's ALP and the LNP immediately rejected any evaluation of a safe injecting room when the issue was raised by brisbnanetimes.com.au in September last year.
 
Dr Wodack said the evaluation in Sydney and Vancouver showed there were savings from ambulance call-outs and costs to emergency rooms, intensive care units and recovery in wards.
 
"The benefits exceeded the costs in Vancouver by 5.12 to one and in Sydney by between 0.72-1.19 to one," he said.
 
"A huge cost saving in Sydney was the reduction in ambulance call outs and then there were costs of the hospitals' emergency departments and intensive care unit and general wards."
 
Dr Wodack estimated up to 10 deaths from overdose were prevented each year in Vancouver, and between five and 10 overdose deaths in Sydney by safe injecting rooms.

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