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thejournal.ie, January 19, 2012

Plans for new supervised drug injecting centre in Dublin

THE ANA LIFFEY Drug Project will outline its ambitious strategy for the next three years today, including plans to set up an injecting centre in Dublin.
 
Included in its proposals – slated for delivery before 2014 – are the development of a Crisis Residential Detox Unit and a Naloxone Pilot Programme, as well as the Medically-Supervised Injecting Centre.
 
Injecting centres have been established in various parts of the world, including Germany, Holland and Sydney, Australia for the past number of years but there is currently no similar facility in Ireland.
 
“There is a lot of implications – including legal ones – about setting up such a centre,” the organisation’s director Tony Duffin told TheJournal.ie.
 
“There will also be moral objections as drug policies often come not from just the evidence but from what people in certain areas can live with or accept,” he continued.
 
Duffin said there is evidence from all over the world that suggests such operations can aid in the prevention of HIV, Hepatitis C, accidental overdoses and damage to veins.
 
It also can stop drug users from injecting in public, moving them to a clean and safe space which is supervised by nursing staff.


“The idea behind the centre is to keep people safe and monitored – not to give them an option to take drugs. It can also be a gateway to treatment and recovery as it removes barriers between the user and staff.”
 
Last year, a high profile legal case in Canada saw the Government fail to shut down an injecting centre. The presiding judge ruled that the facility saved lives and, therefore, staff nor clients could be prosecuted. However, a federal exemption is needed for any more similar sites to be opened.
 
The Ana Liffey project is a harm reduction service which aims to help all drug users including those who are not yet ready or cannot give up their drug use.
 
“We have discussed these plans with all our stakeholders but we are only at the start of this challenging journey. It will be good to have an open discussion on it,” added Duffin, who has had years of experience working in this field.
 
“It can stop someone from dying right in front of you”
 
The proposed naxolone programme would see drug users, their family and friends receive dosages of the opioid antagonist which can bring people back from overdoses.
 
There is currently no structure in place to allow the drug be administered in the home or any place where an emergency has occurred and it is required.
 
“If someone has overdosed, is turning blue and dying in front of you, naxolone can be injected into the arm to stop the opiates working – much like an auto-injector for someone in anaphylactic shock,” explains Duffin.
 
There is a similar pilot programme underway in Northern Ireland, as well as Wales, Scotland and England.
 
Again, there are legal implications for the implementation of any such programme, said Duffin as naxolone is a controlled drug.
 
Funding is the big question
 
Ana Liffey’s goals for the next three years are far-reaching and ambitious but they are all informed by feedback from stakeholders and based on evidence, Duffin toldTheJournal.ie ahead of today’s launch.
 
“Money is always the big question…but we are committed to working in partnership with other agencies or adapting our existing facilities,” added the project’s director.
 
The 30-year-old organisation aims to work with people who are excluded from many other services. Duffin explains,
 
Rather than exclude people who are unable or unwilling to stop using drugs, we work with them to make positive changes in their lives, reducing the harm that drug use causes them, their families and the broader communities.

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