In 2020, Peter Krykant started an unsanctioned overdose prevention site (or drug consumption room) out of a minibus and later a converted ambulance in Glasgow’s city centre. He talked to the Society for the Study of Addiction at Lisbon Addictions 2022 about some of the most important outcomes from drug consumption rooms, the benefits of a medical versus peer-led model, and having the opportunity to challenge news editors to use non-stigmatising language.

Peter Krykant gave an oral presentation at the 2022 Lisbon Addictions conference entitled “How to run an unsanctioned overdose prevention van; experiences from Glasgow 2020–2021” (slides available). He very kindly took the time to speak to the SSA after the presentation about his work to deliver safer consumption facilities to the people of Glasgow, and his experiences of rolling out this form of harm reduction in what he humbly called a “ramshackled old van”.

As Peter described, the drug consumption van enabled people to inject drugs in a safer way than they could in alleyways and abandoned buildings, for example. The environment was sterile, it was well-lit, and people could take their time injecting. Peter talked about putting harm reduction front and centre. He also talked about how important it was that people were treated with dignity.

I witnessed some of the best outcomes, you know, that people felt respected, and they felt cared about. In Glasgow and in the UK, unfortunately, people who are homeless, people who are out injecting drugs, have never had that experience.

There was a session at Lisbon Addictions 2022 dedicated to different models of supervised consumption sites – from medical or clinical models, run by nurses and doctors, to peer-led models, run by people with lived experience of using drugs. Peter suggested there were limitations to the medical model but acknowledged that sometimes this type of service was necessary to get public and political approval for drug consumption rooms. He also talked about the possibilities of implementing a hybrid model, whereby the injecting areas can be staffed by peers, but there is a room next door where nurses or doctors can wait with medical interventions, such as oxygen, and drugs to reverse benzodiazepine-related overdoses.

Harm reduction has to be front and centre. It has to be the key thing that we do in order to drive down drug deaths. And not just harm reduction in terms of overdose prevention sites, but non-coercive, optimum-level, substitute prescribing of drugs like diamorphine and methadone.

As the first person to publicly say that he would provide a drug consumption room, Peter received a lot of press attention. One of the downsides to this was that he was included in stories that perpetuated the stigma around harm reduction services and the people who use them. For example, reports would refer to ‘shooting galleries’ and ‘fix rooms’ instead of ‘drug consumption rooms’ or ‘overdose prevention sites’. Peter used his prominence to challenge this, and now only engages with press that represents drug consumption rooms in accurate and non-stigmatising ways.

When I first started doing this four years ago in Scotland, the BBC, ITV, the newspapers, they were all reporting ‘shooting gallery’, ‘fix room’, and now none of them do that. I started demanding what I wanted from the editors. You can talk to the press and then they’ll run the story, and the reporter will say, ‘oh it was the editor’s fault…he insisted on that headline’. Now if I’m talking to the press, I’ll say to them, ‘before I talk to you, I’m insisting that your editor is not going to put ‘shooting gallery’ or ‘fix room’ in the headline’.

Follow Peter Krykant on LinkedIn and Twitter, and read more about the UK’s first unsanctioned drug consumption room in an SSA interview with researcher Dr Gillian Shorter.

by Natalie Davies

The opinions expressed in this post reflect the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the opinions or official positions of the SSA.

The SSA does not endorse or guarantee the accuracy of the information in external sources or links and accepts no responsibility or liability for any consequences arising from the use of such information.


Share this story