More homeless people are turning to drug addiction in recent years, increasing the need for injection centres in cities and towns.
That’s according to Labour Justice Spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, who is calling on the Government to introduce injection centres promised in legislation.
New research from the Health Research Board found that over half of homeless people who died in 2019 died from a drug overdose.
Deputy Ó Ríordáin told Newstalk Breakfast they are taking drugs because they are homeless, rather than the other way around.
“Drug use used to make you homeless, now homelessness is turning people to drug use,” he said.
“Desperation, homelessness and housing insecurity turn people to ‘medication’, they turn people to substance abuse and addiction.”
Deputy Ó Ríordáin said the Government must look at these deaths as “a national tragedy” and act quickly.
The Labour TD said injection centres have already been approved by Cabinet and it is time to finally implement them across the country.
“We actually got them passed – the concepts – by Cabinet in December 2015,” he said. “It really should have been embraced by this Government.”
“They could have embraced the idea of a mobile centre; they could use international models.
“What would have happened if we had a model [is] centres or facilities where those who use drugs, who inject on the streets, could have a facility where they could do so more safely: medically supervised.”
Deputy Ó Ríordáin said these facilities reduce the risk of fatal overdose.
Addressing the fears of local businesses and residents, Deputy Ó Ríordáin said injection centres would reduce anti-social behaviour.
“The arguments against the centre are essentially reasons to be in favour of them,” he said. “People are upset at drug use or overdose around them – the injection centres can solve on that.”
Labour developed a “healthy coalition” with business interests against the introduction of injection centres.
“If you want to have less drug paraphernalia on the streets, if you want to have less needles and less discarded syringes, then the best thing to do is to find somewhere where [addicts] can engage safely in this practice safely and behind closed doors.”
“It also has the happy effect of saving lives at the same time... we need to change people’s attitudes about what this means for saving lives.”
The Labour TD commended the Government for the recent Citizens’ Assembly on drug use and urged them to take further action to prevent addiction levels increasing further.
The first injection centre in Ireland was approved in December 2022 at Merchant's Quay Ireland.