The Australian Government needs to be proactive in tackling the issue of drug overdoses. Data shows that between 2011 and 2015 there were 2145 opiate drug related deaths (e.g. oxycodone, morphine, codeine etc.).
Coroner speaks out about the lack of medically supervised injecting centres
Drug users are stigmatised and marginalised. They may be forced to inject in dirty environments. This can lead to:
- the transmission of blood-borne viruses,
- drug overdoses
- and the unsafe disposal of needles in public spaces.
The best way to address this issue is to open more medically supervised injecting centres that provide a safe and clean space for injections.
In a recent coronial inquest into the 2016 deaths of six opiate users, Deputy State Coroner Harriet Grahame spoke out about the appalling lack of injecting rooms in Western Sydney. There is currently only one medically supervised injecting centre in NSW. The United Medically Supervised Injecting Centre is located in Kings Cross in Sydney’s inner Eastern Suburbs.
Whilst giving evidence before the coroner, Dr Marianne Jauncey of United MSIC urged the need for more supervised injecting centres, particularly in areas where paramedics attended most for overdoses.
Benefits of medically supervised injecting centres
Supervised injecting centres such as the one in Kings Cross are beneficial to users and the public at large. Users enter a judgement free environment where they have access to clean injecting equipment and trained staff. Clients who use the space are educated about cleanliness and the risks of blood-borne virus transmission that can occur through the sharing of needles. Most importantly, clients are supervised during their injection which allows staff to intervene when they notice a risk of overdose.
After the injection is complete, clients safely dispose of their used equipment and move into a relaxed space. This provides an opportunity for staff to engage in conversation and connect with the clients at the centre. This relationship building is essential because it allows them to make effective referrals into other treatment, care and support services.
Medically supervised injecting centres are saving lives, reducing injuries from drug injections and facilitating rehabilitation. Parliamentarians need to pass less judgement on drug users, and start funding more centres. This will reduce the number of overdoses, the spread of blood-borne viruses, and used needles being disposed in public spaces.