Drug policy activist Peter Krykant’s mission to save lives

Peter Krykant's overdose prevention service van in Glasgow
Peter Krykant
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Published on 4 May 2021

It’s time to decriminalise drug use and stop treating vulnerable people like criminals. Wherever you look, tough justice has not worked. All the evidence shows that harm reduction – supporting those who need help – can make a huge difference in saving lives.

In many places, public opinion on drug policy has been shifting, but while we wait for governments to act, thousands of people are still dying, and communities are being torn apart.

In the UK, where drug-related deaths reached a new high in 2019, Scotland in particular is gripped by the worst drug crisis in Europe and Glasgow has the worst HIV outbreak in 30 years. But one man who is not willing to wait for drug laws to change before taking action to help people is activist Peter Krykant.

Peter operates a mobile overdose prevention van, which he parks in Glasgow city centre. The van gives drug users a space to safely inject, which saves lives due to its supply of clean needles and naloxone, a medication that helps counteract the effects of an overdose. The trained employees also provide an opportunity for advice and referrals for drug treatment, mental health services, wound care, blood testing and other support.

Peter Krykant
Peter Krykant

What Peter is doing has no legal framework. He was given a caution for allegedly obstructing police in the course of search while running his van in Glasgow, but he refused to accept the caution and the Crown Office has told him he won’t face any further court action.

This is hugely positive news for the people who he is helping, who don’t have anywhere else to turn. Scottish campaigners have also called for more action, including safe injecting rooms, decriminalisation of drugs and increased access to treatment services.

And no one knows the need for these services better than Peter. Decades ago, he was homeless for a number of years and injected drugs on the street. Peter says he is only still here because paramedics were there to administer Naloxone. Harm reduction kept him alive and it gave him opportunities to explore other avenues in life. He is now married with children and is channelling his energy into trying to bring about change.

Harm reduction really can save lives.

Peter Krykant
Peter Krykant

In other parts of the world, such as Canada, Australia and many other European countries, drug consumption rooms or medically supervised injection sites have shown to be a great tool for harm reduction. Harm reduction also has benefits for everyone: less wasted police time, less anti-social behaviour, less discarded equipment and a reduced burden on the criminal justice system.

As a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, I have for years argued that the so-called war on drugs has been a costly failure that has achieved nothing to make societies and communities safer.

What is needed now in Britain and elsewhere is a fresh start for drug policy, which would save lives, make communities safer and reduce the burden on scarce public resources. That’s what evidence-based policy is all about, and I know it would be met with overwhelming popular support.