In a move that may be shocking to some, but appears to have been in the cards to happen, Ireland will move towards decriminalising drugs. This will include heroin, cocaine and cannabis. This comes as part of a “radical cultural shift”, the country’s drugs minister has said.
Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, the chief of Ireland’s National Drugs Strategy, told an enraptured lecture hall at the London School of Economics on Monday that drug users will be able to inject in specially designated rooms in the Irish capital, Dublin, from next year. The reasoning behind this is similar to the idea of needle exchanges which allow for addicts to use the substance in a safer in environment free from certain diseases due to the sharing of needles.
The minister said attitudes to drugs needed to move away from the shaming of addicts towards helping them. Ó Ríordáin also emphasised there was a difference between legalisation and decriminalisation.
It would remain a crime to profit, from either the sale or distribution of illegal drugs, but drug takers would no longer be criminalised for their addictions. Essentially it means that possession, provided you were an addict, would not result in an arrest in Ireland. This is seen as a much more compassionate approach towards people who have the disease of addiction.
“I am firmly of the view that there needs to be a cultural shift in how we regard substance misuse if we are to break this cycle and make a serious attempt to tackle drug and alcohol addiction,” said Mr Ó Ríordáin.
However, while Mr O Ríordáin told The Irish Times that there was a “strong consensus that drugs across the board should be decriminalised,” he said it would be for Ireland’s next government to discuss and not the one he is currently a part of.
His comments follow a leaked report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, appearing to call for a worldwide decriminalisation on 19th October. The study was reportedly withdrawn after at least one nation put pressure on the international body to bury the findings of Dr Monica Beg, chief of the HIV and AIDs section of the UNODC in Vienna.
Discussing plans to open ‘injection rooms’ Mr Ó Ríordáin said they would be “clinically controlled environments” that would aim to prevent already vulnerable individuals from exposing themselves to further risks. As mentioned above the needle exchange programmes are immensely successful in preventing the spread of diseases associated with sharing of needles; such as HIV or Hep C.
He added, “Research has shown that the use of supervised injecting centres is associated with self-reported reductions in injecting risk behaviours.”
Following the opening of the Dublin clinic, the minster added he hoped similar rooms in Cork, Glaway and Limerick would also open to aid addicts through their suffering.