Pharmacists support harm minimisation strategy

addiction illicit drugs dependency

An AJP poll has demonstrated overwhelming support for medically supervised injecting facilities

AJP asked what readers thought about injecting rooms such as that operating in Kings Cross, Sydney, and proposed for the drug hot spot of Richmond, Melbourne.

In September, the Victorian Government knocked back calls for a Richmond facility, disappointing harm minimisation proponent and pharmacist Angelo Pricolo as well as other stakeholders such as Fiona Patten, founder of the Sex Party.

Readers were invited to tell us whether they did or did not support such a facility, and were able to tick as many boxes as applied – and the response was huge.

Three-quarters – 76% of readers – told us that they supported a medically supervised injecting centre because “these facilities reduce harm to illicit drug users”. At the time of writing, a whopping 587 readers had ticked this box: an unusually strong result for one of our reader polls.

A further 63% said they supported the call because “these facilities act as a gateway to treatment for addiction,” and another 53% because “these facilities reduce antisocial behaviour in the area”.

Another 66% said these facilities reduce local harms such as unsafe syringe disposal.

On the against side, 6% said medically supervised injecting rooms condone risky behaviour (46 votes), and 6% had a moral objection to supporting illicit drug use.

A significant minority of 13% said injecting rooms maintain drug-using practices instead of helping users to stop taking illicit drugs; this issue was also raised in comments.

“We need to get addicts off drugs, not encourage them to keep on using,” said marybrett1. “The best way of doing this is by rehabilitation—preferably residential which has been shown to work That’s where the money should be spent.”

Angelo Pricolo has been at the forefront of efforts to not only urge politicians to consider establishing such a facility, but also to gather grassroots support among health professionals including pharmacists; he has hosted Harm Minimisation forums this year and created a flyer (to be published in the November issue of the AJP) which will allow pharmacists to display their support.

The poster features an orange house with syringe chimney (the same shade as the cap on disposable syringes) and a very simple message of support for an injecting facility.

“It’s encouraging that so many people are voicing an opinion – stage one of this debate is to try and have as much input as we possibly can, so to have so many people replying is in itself a big positive and a win,” Mr Pricolo said in response to the AJP poll results.

“I’m encouraged to see in black and white the groundswell of support that I have encountered as this has become a more discussed topic,” he said.

“I think it’s a realisation by the profession that we are intimately involved in this space.

“We see a lot of the people that are affected, we dispense the drugs – we provide to a huge percentage of the people, about a third of them, the means by which they’re going to inject – and this is a recognition that we should also be in the process of recovery.

“I hope these poll results encourage more pharmacists to be vocal with their support of the medically supervised injecting rom trial… and importantly display the orange poster on their pharmacy window.”

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