Bob Carr calls for supervised ice inhalation rooms

FORMER New South Wales Premier Bob Carr has joined a chorus of medical and drug experts calling for "ice inhalation rooms" to be opened around the state.

Drug reformer canmpaigners Matt Noffs and Dr Alex Wodak have pioneered a push for the NSW Government to introduce crystal meth safe zones - rooms where addicts can inhale the drug ice with medical staff on hand and no fear of police arrest.

They would be modelled on the heroin "shooting gallery" in Kings Cross, a medically supervised injection site that has been shown to at least partially clear the streets of problem addicts and stop overdoses.

Now the state's former premier, who opened Sydney's safe heroin injecting room in 2001, is on board with a plan to extend the program to include ice users.

"I think that the principle could well be the same," Mr Carr told 7 News.

"That is, you save lives, you get people off the streets, you make the streets safer."

Mr Noffs, the chief executive officer of the Ted Noffs Foundation, had a message for all political parties after the e7lection.

"Which party will be courageous enough to introduce, not one, but several ice inhalation rooms around Australia?"

"When we began discussing this a year ago we realised it was a controversial idea, there is no denying that.

"But after a year of research and examining the evidence, we've found that these rooms are commonplace in parts of Europe - because they work."

The NSW Government reiterated it had no plans to open an ice inhalation room, in Sydney or anywhere else.

But Mr Noffs has said he would be willing to risk going to jail to prove the program would work.

He said there were now more than 100 drug consumption rooms across the globe, with the Kings Cross injection centre one of the first to open.

"The chief of staff to Germany's Health Minister told Dr Wodak and me that not only are inhalation rooms not controversial for the cities they are present in, the very existence of drug consumption rooms was inspired by Australia's leading example," he said.

"It saddens me to think that we were a country of pioneers when it came to drugs like heroin.

"Decisions like these take political courage.

"I haven't seen that sort of courage since Bob Carr's decision to open the Kings Cross centre."

A 2011 study of the Kings Cross heroin facility found it had successfully managed 4400 overdoses without a single fatality, according to the Australian Drug Foundation.

It had also reduced the number of publicly discarded needles in the Kings Cross area by about half, cut back ambulance call-outs to Kings Cross by 80% and generated more than 9500 referrals to health and social welfare services.

University of New South Wales researchers in May found the number adolescents in drug and alcohol treatment programs who reported using methamphetamine doubled in the five years to 2014.

Figures like those are what prompted former Australian Police Commissioner Mick Palmer to join the push for supervised inhalation rooms in problem areas.

"I'm convinced in my own mind that we might surprise ourselves through the positive outcomes that we might achieve if we were to consider things like consumption rooms where drugs other than heroin could be consumed," Mr Palmer said. -ARM NEWSDESK

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