A police boss has taken the Home Secretary to task over her “horribly complacent” attitude on drugs when people are dying on the streets of North Wales.
Priti Patel criticised North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones who is calling for drugs to be regulated to stem the growing tide of “needless deaths”.
He cited figures that showed between 2016 and 2018 in North Wales, 98 people died as a result of drug misuse – with the highest number of fatalities in Gwynedd, closely followed by Flintshire.
Mr Jones, a former police inspector, is a long standing campaigner for drugs reform.
He’s urging the Westminster Government to introduce other legal harm reduction measures including needle exchanges and the use of Naloxone as an effective antidote to overdoses.
The use of other tolerated measures like drug testing at nightclubs and music festivals and Heroin Assisted Treatment by prescribing safe, medical-grade diamorphine to addicts.
Another life-saving idea that the Government was refusing to countenance as the introduction of Drug Consumption Rooms where people with problematic drug use could go to inject safely and hygienically.
He said: “The Home Secretary’s horribly complacent attitude and that of the Government flies in the face of the evidence and meanwhile people are dying needlessly on our streets.
“The war on drugs has failed miserably for 30 years and it is the height of foolishness to persist with a policy that has never worked and will never work.
“It’s sheer madness and meanwhile, the number of drug related deaths here in Wales and across the UK is rising at an alarming rate.
“Once again, I am urging the Government to provide financial support to life-saving initiative like needle exchanges, the use of Naloxone drug testing and Heroin Assisted Treatment.
“I also challenge the Government to explain why needle exchanges are legal and Drug Consumption Rooms are not because both are harm reduction measures and both facilitate users to take unlawful drugs more safely.
“It is a national scandal that people are dying needlessly because successive governments had refused to acknowledge that a radical new approach is needed.
“The rate of drug deaths in the UK is more than double the European average and we need a new pragmatic, common sense approach that treats problematic drug use as a medical issue and not a criminal matter.
“I would like to see a pilot scheme set up in North Wales to give prescribed heroin to people with problematic drugs use, similar to one that is being set up in Cleveland in the Autumn.
“There, Medical-grade heroin – diamorphine – will be given to them at special centres where they can inject themselves twice a day, seven days a week.
“It has been estimated the scheme will cost about £12,000 a year for each addict, which is a fraction of the cost of the crime they commit.
“I believe a pilot in North Wales should be funded by the Area Planning Board, which together with the Health Board, has an annual budget of £10 million a year to spend on schemes aimed at combating substance abuse, including alcohol.
“The introduction of Drug Consumption Rooms could also save lives. They “have been shown to reduce syringe sharing and litter which in turn reduces the risk of blood-borne virus infections, and they can reduce overdose fatalities and ambulance call-outs for overdose, thereby reducing pressure on our emergency services.”