Ireland Announces First Supervised Injection Facility

By Zachary Siegel 01/04/16

The Emerald Isle is fighting opiate abuse with harm reduction.

Photo via Shutterstock

The harm reduction movement recently saw a major win in Ireland, which has joined the group of countries around the world using reason to combat opiate abuse. Due to a recent spate of heroin overdoses, the Irish government approved a pilot program for a supervised injection facility (SIF) to open in Dublin, according to the Irish Times.

During a presentation in front of cabinet members, the Health Research Board of Ireland showed that 387 people died in 2013 due to drug poisoning. One in 5 of these deaths was caused by heroin use.

In a press conference following the decision, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, the Minister in charge of the National Drugs Strategy, gave an impassioned speech on behalf of overdose prevention. "I was delighted today to get Cabinet approval for my proposal on medically supervised injecting centres,” he said.

Ó Ríordáin continued in positive tones toward taking new steps in drug policy. "Last month, I gave a speech at the London School of Economics where I announced that Ireland needed to take a new approach to dealing with drug policy including the establishment of medically supervised injection facilities," he said. "These facilities can help in harm reduction and alleviate some of the complex needs of a vulnerable and hard to reach group. They are not the only solution to addressing drug addiction but will play a significant role in reducing street injecting and drug related deaths.”

Many details of the facility are still being hashed out. The facility itself is said to be located in the Merchants Quay drug rehabilitation center. Only chronic, or sometimes referred to as “entrenched,” users will have access to the SIF.

Ó Ríordáin added, "The establishment of supervised injecting facilities will allow for earlier medical intervention in the case of overdoses and can also act as a gateway to treatment for drug users.”

Though heroin and other drugs will remain illegal, users will be able to procure their own drugs for safe usage at the SIF.

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Zachary Siegel is a freelance journalist specializing in science, health and drug policy. His reporting has also appeared in Slate, The Daily Beast, Salon, Huffington Post, among others. He writes often about addiction, sometimes drawing from his own experience. You can find out more about Zachary on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.