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Scotland’s first heroin assisted treatment service opens in Glasgow

A patient’s diamorphine treatment is prepared in the pharmacy before being administered. Image credit: Glasgow City Council

Scotland’s first heroin assisted treatment service opens in Glasgow

A new £1.2m facility to treat drug addiction with pharmaceutical grade heroin has been opened in Glasgow, the first of its kind in Scotland.

The pilot scheme, titled the Enhanced Drug Treatment Service (EDTS), will aim to reduce the risk of overdoses, stop the spread of blood-borne viruses like HIV and help reduce the amount of people injecting drugs in public.

The facility is licensed by the Home Office and delivered by Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership (GCHSCP).

It is expected to treat up to 20 patients in its first year and up to 40 patients in the second year. The centre will operate between 9am and 5pm daily, with services delivered by a specialist multi-disciplinary team, supported by other health and social care services.

The EDTS is aimed at people whose addiction persists after they have received conventional treatment and care services, including methadone, support from community addictions services and residential rehabilitation.

It will focus on people whose addictions impact most severely on their own health, as well as on their communities, public services and the city centre.

Patients must be “totally committed to the treatment” and will have to visit the centre twice a day, seven days a week, Glasgow City Council said in a statement.

Heroin assisted treatment will only be available to patients who were “already involved with Glasgow's Homeless Addiction Team” and suitability for the treatment “will be assessed and those who meet the criteria will receive a prescription for pharmaceutical grade diamorphine injections”.

GCHSCP interim chief officer of Susanne Millar said the service was “aimed at people with the most chaotic lifestyles and severe addictions who have not responded to existing treatments”.

“Sadly, Glasgow suffered a record number of drug related deaths last year and there was also an increased number of non-fatal overdoses,” Millar, who also chairs Glasgow's Alcohol and Drug Partnership, said.

“This challenging social issue demands innovative treatments and this gold standard service is leading the way in Scotland.”

She said while some people may “question why health services are spending money providing heroin for people with addictions”, the answer was “we can't afford not to”.

“Not only are we are striving to save the lives of individuals themselves, we also aim to reduce the spread of HIV and to reduce the impact of addictions on Glasgow families and communities.

“Successfully treating a person's addiction not only helps them, it reduces pressures on frontline health and criminal justice services while reducing antisocial behaviour and drug related crime in communities.”

Associate medical director and senior medical officer at Glasgow Alcohol and Drug Recovery Services, Dr Saket Priyadarshi, said the centre was “a much needed and welcome addition to the comprehensive treatment and care services already existing in Glasgow”.

“We have known for a number of years that there are people who continue to experience harm despite receiving conventional treatment. It is only appropriate that, as in other branches of medicine, we can offer addictions patients the next line in treatment,” he said.

“Heroin Assisted Treatment is a highly evidence-based intervention and it will be delivered with intensive psycho-social support to address the wide range of harm and social care needs that this population experiences.”

Deaths from drug use in Scotland reached an all-time high of 1,187 people last year, making Scotland the country with the highest per capita drug deaths in the developed world.

There are also plans for a safer drug consumption facility to be opened in Glasgow, to provide a “safe, clean place” for people to use their own street drugs in the presence of trained medical staff, “who could react in the event of an overdose”, the council said.

A recent report by the Scottish Affairs Committee found there was “a strong evidence base for a safe consumption facility in Glasgow which would be a practical step to reducing the number of drug-related deaths in Scotland”.

The committee also recommended the UK Government give the Scottish Government permission to run a trial of safe consumption rooms as an “immediate solution” to the crisis.

Read the most recent article written by Emily Woods - Talking point: Learning Scots

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