A formal complaint has been sent to the United Nations International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) citing overwhelming evidence that Australia’s two injecting rooms – one each in Sydney and Melbourne – are both tacitly aiding and abetting the local drug trade, significantly enriching drug dealers.
The complaint, sent by Major Brian Watters, the President of Drug Free Australia who was previously a First Vice-President of the INCB and Prime Minister John Howard’s Chair of the National Council on Drugs during the highly successful Tough on Drugs era, cites the extraordinary rates of overdose within the two facilities. The Sydney injecting room hosts overdose rates which are up to 63 times higher than the overdose histories of its own clients before they register to use the facility, while the Melbourne injecting room has overdose rates a staggering 102 times higher. Even with 23% of Melbourne’s clients being recently released from prison, a situation which somewhat elevates the chance of an overdose, overdose rates are still 70 times higher than normal.
A Drug Free Australia report on the massive overdose rates and their implications for the drug trade accompanies the complaint, produced by an international team of drug policy experts including Dr Stuart Reece, a Professor at the University of WA, Dr Robert DuPont, founder of the world’s most prestigious drug and alcohol research Institute, the US National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and Dr Colin Mangham – a Canadian academic well-versed in injecting room studies. Members of this team previously exposed a Lancet study on Vancouver’s injecting room that was shown to be either inept or fraudulent.
Gary Christian, the Research Director for Drug Free Australia who convened the report, asserts that there would be cause for alarm if an injecting room had overdose rates just double that of normal street overdose rates. “Taking the clients of the Melbourne injecting room where overdoses are a staggering 102 times higher than normal, these clients average just 3 in every 100 of their injections inside the facility, so why aren’t they having just as many overdoses with their other 97 per 100 injections outside the facility, where overdose rates remain normal?” said Mr Christian.
Testimony from ex-clients of both injecting rooms which is contained within the report indicates that high overdose rates are from clients experimenting with toxic cocktails of drugs and higher amounts of opiates in the room, knowing that if they overdo it they will be revived by injecting room staff. These overdoses require clients buying more drugs than usual before entering the facility, significantly enriching the local drug trade and lining dealers pockets. This makes both injecting rooms government-funded accessories to the drug trade, contravening United Nations Drug Conventions to which Australia is a signatory. State government obligations are to decreasing, not increasing the trafficking of drugs.
Drug Free Australia has written to NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews calling for the immediate closure of both injecting rooms. Formal complaints have also been sent to the Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs as well as the Federal Minister for Health. Academic studies show that one Australian life is lost for every 110,000 opiate injections anywhere within Australia, yet both injecting rooms fall well short of that number with not enough injections per year to claim they have even saved a single life. Significantly, both facilities fail on every other government-mandated objective. Any other government-funded facility failing to meet objectives would be stripped of funding.
Testimony from a Melbourne ex-client now in rehab is that experimentation in the room was discussed with literally hundreds of other injecting room clients and is a most prevalent reason for using the facility. “It is time for governments to cease breaching our international agreements with other countries, and stop lining the pockets of drug dealers,” said Mr Christian. “These facilities need to be closed immediately.”