A room where it’s legally acceptable to take drugs is understandably a controversial concept – with just two currently set up in Australia.
But could such rooms help prevent drug-related deaths?
The rooms allow people to access clean and safe equipment to take drugs, with medical staff on hand should something go wrong.
Sydney’s Medically Supervised Injecting Centre (MSIC) is just one of a small number currently running worldwide, and according to its website “supervises episodes of drug injecting that would otherwise happen elsewhere – often in public, and under inherently more dangerous conditions”.
The MSIC adds: “There is immediate access to emergency medical care in the event of an overdose or adverse event. The professional staff are able to engage with users and facilitate effective referral to a variety of services, including specialist addiction treatment.”
The centres do not provide drugs, and users are offered counselling services and advice on how to quit.
The Victorian Government recently introduced a medically-supervised injecting centre for North Richmond, an inner-Melbourne area reportedly plagued by drug overdoses.
Other countries that have drug-taking rooms include Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, Spain, Luxembourg, Norway and the Netherlands.
The Alcohol and Drug Foundation (ADF) says that, as of 2015, Sydney’s centre had managed more than 5,925 overdoses without a single fatality.
Many people who call for the rooms to be introduced more widely claim they could help prevent drugs-related deaths by offering a safe environment for addicts, with medical and psychological support on hand.
However, critics insist the rooms would just encourage and enable an already dangerous habit. They cite anecdotal evidence from countries that have long supported drug rooms, such as the Netherlands, that shows the rooms haven’t been successful in weaning addicts off drugs.
The existence of the rooms are also a difficult area legally, with many people who disagree with them pointing out that it’s the government’s role to fight drug use, not facilitate it.