Maddiston man and recovering addict launches Glasgow-based drugs consumption van
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Recovering heroin addict Peter Krykant is putting his liberty on the line in the hope of preventing users from overdosing or contracting blood-borne viruses.
Though he could be arrested, Peter (43) is unfazed as he is determined to be there for those in need.
A “frustrating” lack of action from the UK Government – combined with the UK Home Office rejecting calls for a legal consumption room in the city – led to him putting his foot down and accelerating his mobile ‘fix room’ plan.
With close to 500 injecting users in Glasgow, the city is recovering from its worst HIV outbreak for 30 years.
Furthermore, the death rate for problem drug use in Scotland is higher than in any other European country, with 1187 people losing their lives to drugs in 2018.
Ex-Forth Valley Recovery Community worker Peter bought his van after launching an online crowdfunder which raised £2400.
The vehicle contains clean needles, injecting equipment and doses of Naloxone – a life-saving drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.
It was first put into use last Friday and Peter plans to provide his service in Glasgow “once or twice a week”. He also intends to set up volunteer-run gazebos and sites.
However, Peter insists it is the UK Government that must take action.
He said: “At the beginning there were lots of different concerns if police would intervene and try to close it down.
“One day last week, a few people came for a needle exchange. The first day people started using was the first day the TV cameras and police weren’t around.
“The police came along and were very friendly and asked how we were doing.
“It was pretty surprising but it shows where we’re at. There’s a difference between the Scottish Government and UK Government stances. They’re a million miles apart.
“The SNP voted for decriminalisation at their conference last year; the UK Government are digging their heels in.”
Peter added: “Nobody has been arrested or been in trouble so far. We’ll see if the police are going to let it happen.
“I would be surprised if I was arrested at this stage because the police know what’s going on. They’ve seen the van parked in the city centre on numerous occasions.
“They know people are injecting in the van. If I were to be arrested, I’m fully prepared.
“However, I don’t believe it would be in the public interest to do so. The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 is so outdated it doesn’t cover stuff like this.
“I can’t see why we can’t get an official facility. It has been building up in me for a while where I thought something more needed to be done.
“The straw that broke the camel’s back was the drug deaths conference held at the end of February by the Scottish and UK governments.
“Just after that was when I said if this isn’t going to be sanctioned, somebody is going to have to step forward without legal framework to push the boundaries and see what happens.”
Nine addicts were supported by Peter’s drug consumption van last week.
If the number of users being helped daily is to increase, he says government attitudes must change.
“The only chance we’ve got of getting a properly sanctioned facility is for the Lord Advocate (James Wolffe) to step forward and challenge the constitutional boundaries,” Peter continued.
“Police, crime and health are devolved, drug legislation isn’t. I don’t think the Lord Advocate has the bottle because he’s continuously said he’s not going to do anything because there’s not legal framework.
“Recently the former Prime Minister of New Zealand, Helen Clark, who is the global chairwoman on drug policy, publicly backed this and the consumption facility in Glasgow.
“We have the backing of the majority of Scottish MSPs and more or less all Scottish MPs. Secretly, there are Scottish Conservative MSPs who would back this as well but they won’t go against the party line which is frustrating because people are dying daily.”
Having first injected heroin aged 17, Peter is now 11 years drugs-free.
He knows, however, Scotland’s official figures paint a bleak picture and said: “We’re averaging four deaths, maybe more, a day now.
“We still need to see how bad the 2019 stats were and, from all accounts, they were worse than 2018.
“Governments can only dig their heels in so long. The evidence is overwhelming that these facilities not only reduce deaths and stop blood-borne viruses, but they help the public in terms of reducing the use of the NHS.
“These facilities help users to get on to treatment.”
Although he is focusing on drug use problems in Glasgow, Peter believes other areas would benefit from safe consumption rooms.
He explained: “These places are designed to be in areas which have a concentrated, high population of people injecting publicly.
“There are other places in Scotland that have problems with public injecting. I’m not saying we should start one in every town and city in Scotland but if we can get one in Glasgow, where the biggest issues lie, we can prove it works.
“We shouldn’t need to prove anything but if we can prove this works in our biggest city, we can look to have other facilities.”
A Home Office spokeswoman said: “Our approach on drugs is clear – we must prevent drug use in our communities, support people through treatment and recovery and tackle the supply of illegal drugs.
“We have no plans to introduce drug consumption rooms or decriminalise drugs. Illegal drugs devastate lives and communities, and dealers should face the full consequences of the law.”