Drug Consumption Rooms

What is an Overdose Prevention Centre

Overdose Prevention Centres (OPCs) are hygienic, safe spaces where people are able to take drugs safely under the supervision of trained staff. They have access to sterile equipment and staff can respond immediately to overdose.

OPCs also provide an opportunity for brief interventions and advice, or for people to be referred to drug treatment, mental health services, wound care, blood testing and other support.

There are currently approaching 200 OPCs in operation across the world in fourteen countries including Canada, Germany, Switzerland, France, Portugal, Ukraine, Norway, the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Spain, Denmark, Iceland and the US.

OPCs prevent overdose deaths

OPCs reduce needle sharing that can lead to infections, including HIV and hepatitis C, as well as public injecting and discarded needles.

OPCs help increase numbers entering treatment

OPCs are cost-effective reducing costs to health services and police.

See this FAQs and briefing paper for more details

How do they work?

On entering the OPC, a new client's health status and drug use are briefly assessed. They then receive sterile equipment and have access to a clean booth where they can inject under the care of a nurse or other trained staff.

Clients then move to a recovery area for observation until safe to leave. Staff provide safer injecting advice, first aid, and overdose reversal treatment if needed. They may also offer referral to treatment and other services.

The best way to understand how an OPC works is to look inside.

You can also see how Canada's first OPC, Insite works, and one of Denmark's early mobile units

An OPC in Operation

Look around the Overdose Prevention Centre (OPC) that opened in New York at the end of 2021. This is the first of its kind in the whole of the USA. The OPC opened with permission from the police and local authorities, but not from the federal US government.

Why we need safe facilities

Injecting drug use happens everywhere. It happens inside homes, but also in the street. Too often the places where people take drugs are unhygienic, dangerous or isolated. Such places make dangerous infections more likely, and make it much harder to deal with overdose.

Until they are able to stop taking drugs, people who are dependent need safer spaces where they can inject. It can help save their lives, as well as helping reduce issues such as discarded needles.

UK Situation

Many local areas are exploring the possibility of opening an OPC. NHS Scotland and the Scottish Government want to open an OPC in Glasgow to help tackle record drug deaths and an HIV outbreak - but currently this is being blocked by the UK Government, despite recognition of their potential to reduce harm.

OPCs are supported by many health bodies, police commissioners, NGOs and the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. They have unanimous cross-party support on Glasgow City Council.

In Glasgow, a mobile OPC has been opened by Peter Krykant - acting ahead of any changes to the law. This 'guerrilla' facility has changed the debate in Scotland and across the UK. It is now looking more likely than ever that they will receive formal approval.

What do OPCs look like?

Permanent, large OPC – Insite Canada
Smaller OPC embedded within other facilities – Dr Peter’s Hospice, Vancouver
Permanent, large OPC – Melbourne Medically Supervised Injection Centre
Mobile Unit in Denmark

The evidence base

There is a large body of literature describing and evaluating Overdose Prevention Centres. Find some of the key studies here.

Opening an Overdose Prevention Centre – practical steps

Canada has opened almost 150 supervised consumption sites. These pages explain why, and the steps to get permission to open one

This short video about the Dr Peter’s Hospice OPC has strong supportive quotes from the local residents association, housing, police, and business community. They have also produced Guidance on Community Consultation and Engagement for Implementation of OPCs.

Planning for a Supervised Injection facility Webinar on steps to open a OPC in the UK. Speakers include Prof Alex Stevens, Megan Jones (West Mids PCC Office), DCI Jason Kew, Niamh Eastwood (Release), Dr Saket Priyadarshi (Glasgow NHS), Rudi Fortson QC

Building Community Support

Communities may have concern about the opening of an OPC is their neighbourhood. It is key to consult and inform and educate everyone in advance. In some cases OPCs have been delayed by opposition based on a misunderstanding of the likely outcomes.

When local residents and families affected by drugs are involved however, support can be built.

For example:

  • This short video about the Dr Peter’s Hospice OPC has strong supportive quotes from the local residents association, housing, police, and business community.
  • In Melbourne, a group of residents and affected families called the Victoria Street Drug Solutions campaigned for an OPC to open in their area, which it did in 2018. Plans for a second one have now been announced.
[Images] Bereaved and affected families lead the march for an OPC in Melbourne