Many countries are moving away from a “war on drugs” approach to fighting substance abuse and addiction. Ireland intends to join the ranks of several other countries who have decriminalized low-level drug possession; in an even bolder move, the country is planning to open medically-supervised injection rooms in Dublin.
In this post, we’ll explore the plans for injection rooms in Dublin and see how this initiative is part of a more progressive drug policy for Ireland.
The Plan to Open Drug Injection Rooms
The planned injection rooms are scheduled to open in Dublin in early 2016; after that, rooms will also open in Galway, Limerick and Cork. No drugs or injection supplies would be provided at these facilities, but they would serve as a safe, medically supervised place to use heroin.
While injection rooms haven’t been proven to slow the rate of drug use in countries where they’ve been implemented, they may help limit the spread of diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C, reduce overdoses and decrease the number of people injecting on the street.
A Shift in Drug Policy
The plans for injection rooms in Dublin are part of a broader shift in drug policy for Ireland. The country plans to decriminalize the possession of several drugs for personal use, including heroin, marijuana and cocaine. This approach to drug policy is similar to that of Portugal, where addiction is addressed as a medical issue rather than a criminal offense.
Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, the Minister of State in charge of Ireland’s National Drugs Strategy, expressed confidence in these plans in an interview with The Irish Times.
“I am firmly of the view that there needs to be a cultural shift in how we regard substance misuse if we are to break this cycle and make a serious attempt to tackle drug and alcohol addiction,” said Ó Ríordáin.
He went on to explain that it’s not about decriminalizing particular substances, it’s about decriminalizing the individual.
Injection Rooms in the U.S.?
While supervised injection rooms are already open in several countries, none currently exist in the United States. The closest facility is located in Vancouver, and it’s currently the only one in North America. However, plans are being made in a few American cities that embrace a similar spirit of harm reduction.
Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, a nonprofit organization, is planning to open a “safe space” where people can spend time if they’re high on heroin. This facility would cater mostly to the city’s homeless population and those in unstable housing situations.
Unlike the planned injection rooms of Dublin, no drugs would actually be used in the facility; it would be for individuals who were already high and needed to be off the street for a period of time.
Dublin’s plans for injection rooms are controversial, but they represent a shift toward a more progressive drug policy that’s being embraced by many countries worldwide. There’s a growing understanding that the next-best thing to actually preventing drug use would be minimizing the harm caused by it.
A more compassionate approach to drug policy also helps eliminate the stigma associated with addiction and may encourage drug users to seek the treatment they need.