Every Friday for the past two months, Peter Krykant parked his white van on Parnie Street in the heart of Glasgow, Scotland, at the corner of a game shop and several art galleries, waiting for people to come and inject illegal drugs.
Inside the van there are two seats and two tables, each with a stainless steel tray and hypodermic needle, and several biological bins. The van is also equipped with naloxone and a defibrillator, drugs used to reverse opioid overdose. (There are also COVID-19 safety precautions: hand sanitizer and mask box.)
Krykant usually opens the van until 10 a.m. on this special day, three people were already waiting to get inside. This was surprising because when the Scottish police refused to open the car to the police, they learned that several people were taking drugs inside and charged him the week before for interfering. He wasn’t sure that someone would return after that horror.
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Scotland faces the worst drug crisis on record and is one of the worst countries in the world. The country has recorded drug-related deaths for the fifth consecutive year, and now the per capita death rate is three times higher than anywhere else in Europe.
Overdose is more common in Scotland than in the United States. In 2018, Scotland had about 20 drug-related deaths per 100,000 people, while in the United States there were 18, and about 5 in Ireland, Finland and Sweden.
Kraikant said firmly that the drug consumption office would help slow down the death rate from overdose in Scotland by allowing drug users to hand-inject naloxone under supervision.
Krykant easily chats with several men waiting to get inside. He asks them what kind of drug they want to inject, writes it down, and then opens the sliding backdoor.
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In addition to Krykant, at least one trained volunteer is on duty. They take turns spying on the police and checking the people inside.
Krykant, who was an addict, said he learned very quickly that damage reduction was the most fundamental thing.
People no longer have a chance after they die, he said.
The Drug Consumption Office is a facility that allows people with clean equipment to take illegal drugs legally under the supervision of trained professionals in a sterile environment. They have been shown to reduce overdose deaths and blood-borne viruses like HIV, reduce public injections, and connect people to treatment services faster.
Andrew McAuley, professor of public health at Glasgow Caledonian University, said there was no record of death in all recorded injections that occurred in these spaces around the world.
The first legal facilities opened in Switzerland in the mid-1980s, and about 200 have been established across Europe, Canada and Australia over the past 30 years.
Their effectiveness and Scotland remain illegal across the UK despite increasingly serious drug problems.
The Scottish government has expressed support, but Westminster did not sprout. In a statement, a spokesman for the UK Home Office said there are no plans to introduce a drug consuming room, and anyone who runs it will commit a variety of crimes.
But Krykant thinks it’s easy to blame Westminster.
Everything we heard was the fault of the British government, he said. If you have political will, you can now have a drug consuming room in Scotland.
Scotland manages its own health care and policing the system known as the devolution Krykant, and other drug policy advocates say that Scotland’s chief prosecutor Lord Advocate can provide legal guarantees in the form of a consolation letter stating the drug consumption chamber Insist. It can work without fear of criminal prosecution. (Lord Advocate provided similar guidelines for naloxone this spring.)
However, he has rejected this so far, saying the facility needs a legal solution that covers the full range of civil liability and criminal law exemption.
So far, the police have not closed the van and have not even arrested it. In the statement they seemed to suggest that they would leave alone enough, at least for now.
The establishment of any form of safe place of consumption violates the UK’s Drug Abuse Act of 1971, Gary Ritchie, deputy chief of the Scottish police, said in a statement. Attempts to circumvent the law by providing unregulated and unauthorized facilities could expose already vulnerable people to more danger and harm.
For Krykant, Van’s goal is to challenge drug policy more than curb Scotland’s soaring drug deaths.
We can save people, he said, but this is always about the push for official institutions. Can’t serve hundreds of people behind one transfer van.
Krykant grew up in Falkirk, about 20 miles from Glasgow, and said she was taking her medications every day until she was 11. By the age of 17, he injected heroin and a few years later lived on the streets in Birmingham, England, begging for money to set fire to his drug habits.
He was eventually contacted by an outreach team in Birmingham and offered him the opportunity to enter a residential treatment program. I got there with my bag and enough medicine to ride the train, he said.
After that, he moved to Brighton in southern England, where he completed another program and was now clean for 20 years. He returned to Falkirk with his family in 2013 and began working in the drug recovery service.
In February, he attended a conference sponsored by the Scottish government to hear about the drug consuming office’s promise. He was interested. A few weeks later he went to Copenhagen to meet people who opened Denmark’s first mobile site in 2011. In less than a year, the Danish Parliament legalized supervised injection facilities.
I was inspired by what happened there, he said. They quickly obtained a legal framework and now have the largest safe consumption facility in the world.
He returned to Scotland and decided to do the same.
He invested £500 of his money (about $650) and crowdfunded the remaining £2,400 to buy a well-traveled van and equip it with the necessary equipment. On the 31st of August, International Overdose Awareness Day, he first drove to Parnie Street.
Krykant carefully selected the van parking space. There are alleys in which drug users publicly inject within 30 seconds. It is filled with discarded needles, pieces of foil and small spoons.
James Muir, 34, said that when the van was not available, he was usually shot in a nearby alley or parking lot around Glasgow. He said he had been in the van three or four times. By the way, I think it’s really good.
Muir referred to Kraikant and reassured that he was locking the van when asked if the police were worried about the possibility of appearing and arresting him for possession of drugs. I trust him.
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