'In just five hours in Dublin, I saw more needles than in the last 10 years in Sydney'
Scenes of addicts injecting heroin in broad daylight in Dublin city centre shocked an Australian medical expert yesterday, who said it was worse than anything she had witnessed in the past decade.
“I’ve been in this country five hours and I’ve seen more discarded injecting equipment in the last five hours than I’ve seen in the last 10 years in my own country,” said Dr Marianne Jauncey.
She is medical director of the Uniting Medically Supervised Injection Centre in King’s Cross, Sydney, which allows addicts to inject under supervision in order to prevent overdose deaths and help them to access health care and therapy.
Unlike Dublin, Sydney does not have a problem of addicts injecting in public spaces as they use the injection centre. Similar centres are proposed in Ireland under new laws to be passed later this year.
“I was genuinely shocked by what I have seen in Dublin. I’m shocked at the amount of public injecting and that it is so widespread,” said Dr Jauncey (45).
“The scale of the problem in Dublin shocks me.”
During a short walk with the Herald, Dr Jauncey was only a few minutes from the offices of the Ana Liffey Drugs Project in Middle Abbey Street when she saw a number of discarded syringes “with fresh blood”.
Nearby, a person was injecting drugs behind a green wheelie bin.
Earlier, she saw two men and one woman publicly injecting drugs in Saint Audoen’s Park on the southside, only a few metres from where a tourist was reading a city map and a person was sitting eating a packed lunch.
“My instinct was to go up to the people injecting to tell them there was help, but Dublin does not have a centre like we have in Sydney,” said Dr Jauncey.
“There was evidence of public injecting littered everywhere in the park. I found it distressing.”
Sydney’s King’s Cross area had similar problems, but these were addressed with the provision of an injection centre 15 years ago.
“Visiting Dublin is like being in a time warp. I haven’t seen these problems since 1999,” said Dr Jauncey who, on street after street in the city centre, found discarded syringes and needles.
There are supervised injection centres in Canada, Ger-
many, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Spain and Denmark, she said, adding that opponents of injection centres claim they “send the wrong message” and “encourage” drug use.
“You can’t help an addict if they’re already dead from an overdose,” said Dr Jauncey.
She said heroin can cause a switch-off of the part of the brain responsible for breathing.
Death from an overdose then results as no oxygen gets to the brain and it dies. In injection centres, addicts are monitored and are given oxygen if neces-
She was shown around Dublin city centre by Tony
Duffin, director of the Ana Liffey Drug Project.
“One person dies from an overdose every day in Ireland,” said Mr Duffin, who has been calling for the swift introduction of the proposed new legislation to allow the setting up of medically supervised injection centres.
He said that not only would the centres save lives, they would allow many addicts to access health services that could lead to them being helped to beat their drug problems.
The centres cut down on addicts being taken to hospital emergency departments and free up ambulances in the city, said Mr Duffin, who estimated that around 400 addicts inject in Dublin city centre each month.
Dr Jauncey said another benefit of injection centres is that the public and tourists would not be confronted with people openly injecting and local businesses would experience fewer problems.
“I’ve absolutely no doubt the benefits of the centre in Sydney would translate very well to Dublin,” she said, adding that critics should realise that add-icts do not inject to experience “the buzz”.
“They do it to stop the pain,” she said. “If they don’t keep using, they feel like death, like they have a flu with a pounding headache with gut cramps and pains in their arms and legs and chest. They inject to make the pain go away.”
When required, medical staff administer the drug naloxone, a heroin antidote.
Dr Jauncey cited cases of addicts in Sydney who were helped to survive and went on to get treatment for their addictions. The centres help the marginalised of society to access care and help, she said.