Campaign for legal drug-taking rooms in London as figures reveal worst areas for heroin and morphine deaths

Campaigners have called for radical new policies to tackle drug abuse in London as new figures revealed the worst boroughs for heroin and morphine overdoses. 

The Office for National Statistics revealed previously unseen data on hard drug related fatalities across the UK from 2014 to 2016 earlier this week. 

The statistics showed the five top hotspots for fatal heroin and morphine overdoses were: Hackney (2.7 per 100,000 people), Haringey (2.6), Camden (2.0), Islington (1.7), and Tower Hamlets (1.6). 

Tottenham MP David Lammy recently claimed the recent surge in London’s violent crime was being fuelled by McMafia style drug barons pushing hard drugs on the capital’s streets.

Now legislative reform campaign Transform Drug Policy (TDP) is calling for the introduction of Drug Consumption Rooms (DCRs) to help tackle the drugs epidemic facing London.  

TDP founder Danny Kushlick told the Standard: “These are not just numbers – they’re people – each of them is someone’s child.  It could have been yours.  

“The UK has one of the highest overdose rates in Europe, which is a direct result of taking a criminal rather than health based approach to the trade and use of opiates. 

“In fact, Londoners are six times as likely to die from a drug overdose as people living in Portugal – because they take a health based approach that doesn’t criminalise people who use drugs. 

“No one has ever died of an overdose in a DCR. That is why Germany, where the focus is on saving lives rather than stopping users, has more than 30 DCRs. 

“The UK Government must introduce DCRs as a matter of the utmost urgency, and explore models of legal regulation to better protect those most vulnerable to overdose and death.” 

The five boroughs with lowest morphine and heroin-related death tolls were Barking, Bexley, Havering, Merton, and Richmond. 

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Anne Canning, Group Director, Children, Adults and Community Health at Hackney Council said: “The increases in drugs misuse deaths across the country reported by the ONS are a deeply saddening trend and an issue that all local authorities should act to address.

“Public Health England have suggested that an ageing cohort of heroin users, who often have a range of complex physical illnesses as a result of long-term drug use, sadly may make them more vulnerable to death from drug misuse. 

“In Hackney we continue to adapt our services to ensure they reflect the ever-changing picture of drug addiction and recovery, to ensure we are best supporting people living in our borough. 

“The Hackney Recovery Service provides a range of pharmacological and psychological treatments to support opiate users which focus on stabilising use, minimising harm and detoxing where appropriate.”

Children in school uniforms working as ‘drugs mules’ for London gangs

A spokesman for Haringey Council said: “Drug misuse has a devastating and often tragic impact on individuals, their families and friends. 

“Haringey has a number of support and recovery services available and we encourage any residents struggling with drugs to get in touch with these services as soon as possible, using the details on our website.”

A Camden Council spokesman said: “The ONS figures show that there is work to do across the country to address the many underlying factors linked to substance misuse.

“Camden Council invests in a range of evidence based treatment services for residents who need support with their drug use. 

“A drug-related death review group has also been established to ensure we identify opportunities for prevention and shared learning.” 

The ONS figures showed drug and heroin overdoses were significantly high in British seaside towns – with 16 in every 100,000 people overdosing in Blackpool. 

The Standard approached the Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, for comment. 

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