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Alcohol & Other Drugs, News & Media

The Cranstoun Response to the United Kingdom’s First Sanctioned OPC Pilot

Posted on: 27 September, 2023

Today, a proposed overdose prevention centre pilot in Glasgow received final sign-off from Glasgow’s Integration Joint Board, comprised of NHS and council officials, with plans to open in due course. The news comes just weeks after the Lord Advocate for Scotland issued a prosecution policy dictating that it is not in the public interest to arrest people who are using the facility, and the move is backed by the Scottish Government.

Glasgow’s OPC pilot will be the first sanctioned facility of its kind in the United Kingdom, but the centres are globally evidenced to reduce harm and save lives, with over 200 in operation across 18 countries.

Scotland has significantly the highest drug death rate in Europe, with 1051 people dying from drugs in 2022. Glasgow is also the city with the highest drug death rate in Europe and great efforts have been made to reduce these tragic numbers, with hope that an OPC can continue to turn the tide.

Cranstoun strongly welcomes this milestone moment, and lauds the Scottish Government, and other supportive MSPs, for their efforts in pushing for implementation over the past years. In addition, we would like to thank the tireless campaigning of people including Cranstoun’s Peter Krykant, who have been instrumental in ensuring the UK finally has an OPC.

The UK Government has already gone on  record to confirm that they will not block the move, and no amendments to legislation are required ahead of the opening of the scheme.

Whilst there is great positivity that the UK will finally have a sanctioned OPC, Cranstoun would like to highlight how much more still needs to be done to better protect people from the harms of drugs. We have campaigned extensively for implementation of OPCs in both Edinburgh and Dundee, and hope that these two cities may follow suit in due course.

If the Lord Advocate could give similar guidance for these cities, then differing models for OPCs could be piloted, which would allow for comparative analysis and evaluation. We urge local officials and the Scottish Government to submit similar requests to the Lord Advocate at the earliest possible moment.

Fast implementation of multiple OPCs trialling different, globally evidenced models will help the UK develop best practice in the most time efficient and effective manner. It will also be of huge benefit if the extremely concerning prevalence of synthetic opioids, such as nitazenes, continues to rise.

Finally, policymakers must also consider what other measures can be brought in quickly to support people who use drugs. Whilst an OPC will save lives, it is most effective as one element of a multi-pronged whole system approach to managing drug use in this country. Recent papers – such as the Home Affairs Select Committee Report on Drugs and Cranstoun’s whole system response to the synthetic opioiods – recommend several harm reduction measures which should be implemented alongside this, including rollout of Diamorphine Assisted Treatment and drug checking services.

Today is a milestone moment, but we will not rest on our laurels until the UK has a world class range of measures that will reduce harm, suffering and death.

Meg Jones, Director of New Business and Services, said: “Cranstoun would like to thank the Scottish Government, MSPs, local officials, campaigners and all others involved in this effort to deliver an OPC for their tremendous work. Whilst we are delighted that this has come to fruition, we will be continuing to push for additional OPC pilots, which utilise a different model, to allow for necessary comparative evaluation. We believe two simultaneous schemes with different models is essential to develop best practice.

We would also like to highlight that OPCs are most effective when they are propped up by a raft of surrounding measures, encompassing a whole system approach. We urge policy makers to act with haste to implement other initiatives that will save lives.

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