Suffolk: Charity boss criticises safe rooms for addicts to inject drugs

Chip Somers

Chip Somers

THE possible trial of drug consumption rooms to tackle substance misuse has been branded the “lazy option” by the head of a leading Suffolk rehabilitation centre.

Chip Somers, chief executive of Focus 12, warned proposals to offer safe, clean havens for addicts to inject illegal drugs under professional supervision, without fear of prosecution in Brighton and Hove, continued the kind of culture where people are “left to rot”.

There are more than 90 similar drug consumption rooms worldwide, but the Sussex project – put forward by the Independent Drugs Commission for Brighton and Hove – would be the first in the UK and would raise the profile of the strategy in the fight against substance abuse.

Mr Somers said: “At a time when drug rehabilitation funding is being cut savagely, to spend the best part of £300,000 on something that will have a minimal effect is a very expensive trial. I would rather see that money spent putting 50 or 60 people through rehab rather than providing a room that colludes with illegal behaviour.”

He added: “It’s a lazy option, it’s like ‘Oh my God I don’t know what to do about these people, just give them what they want’. They wouldn’t give that to their own children, they would move hell and high water to try and get them off drugs and back into normal life.”

Mr Somers, who said the rooms had not been an outstanding success in Canada, added: “We have got the balance between harm reduction and advice completely out of sync. You either say to someone ‘You’re a write-off, I’m going to go on giving you drugs for the rest of your short life’, or ‘I’m going to put all my efforts into getting you to stop using’.”

The charity boss said it was not uncommon for addicts in Suffolk to be given methadone for seven to eight years. He added: “At the moment people are being left to rot on methadone year on year on year.”

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Simon Aalders, co-ordinator of Suffolk Drug and Alcohol Action Team, revealed the idea of a drug room in Suffolk had been dismissed about six or seven years ago.

He added: “In Suffolk, treatment is all about recovery, getting people into good quality treatment that they need where they have the opportunity to stop taking drugs and to re-engage with family and community and to get employment, education, etc.”

Mr Aalders said that although the journey to get off drugs can be long, especially if people have been addicted for a number of years, no- one was left to just “sit on methadone”.

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