University of Glasgow medical students advised to cut ties with Glasgow’s safe drug-consumption van after the arrest of its founder.
Students at the School of Medicine have been warned to stay away from Glasgow's safe drug-consumption van after its founder was arrested by police on 23 October.
The arrest of the alleged founder of Glasgow’s safe drug-consumption van, Peter Krykant, stimulated the latest in a series of emails from Glasgow’s medical school. These warned students to stay away from the van and its activities, after the University was informed that many medical students had signed up as volunteers.
The safe-drug consumption van had been garnering support through Glasgow’s student body over the last few months. Despite reportedly friendly relationships developed between the van owner and the police, Krykant was arrested last Friday and charged with obstruction of a police officer, under Section 23 Part 4(a) of the 1971 Drugs Misuse Act. Reported on Saturday afternoon by national newspapers, what was not mentioned was the latest in a string of emails disseminated across University of Glasgow’s medical school following their growing concerns about student involvement in the van.
Following an incident of drug overdose the week before, unrelated to Krykant's alleged mobile operation, the medical school was contacted by the Glasgow Alcohol and Drug Recovery Services after some students volunteering at the van had rushed to the nearby scene to help. A series of emails have been circulated around the medical school over the last few weeks, and one communication received from the deans of the medical school stated:
“We have been contacted by colleagues about people identified as Medical Students serving as volunteers in a drug consumption van. [We] have a duty to warn you in clear and unequivocal terms when voluntary activity may carry serious consequences for your future careers… If you are thinking about volunteering, please consider these risks, and the good you can do over the span of a lifetime in Medicine. At this very early stage, we would advise you not to risk your career and your huge potential to make positive change.”
When asked about student involvement, Krykant discussed the medical school’s stance on the matter with The Glasgow Guardian. He sympathised with conflicted students, saying: “I don’t want to encourage anybody that’s not got the backing of their employers or their place of study. I respect that the University has got to advise students on stuff that could potentially impact their career.” He commented on how helpful the students had been with helping to publicise the van and share information about the “outdated Misuse of Drugs Act” across a myriad of social media platforms.
Inspired by similar initiatives, like Copenhagen’s “fixing rooms” initially set up by a grassroots organisation, Krykant allegedly operates on Fridays near an alleyway just off Argyle Street in Glasgow’s city centre. He had been in touch with a University of Glasgow student involved in a drug harm reduction initiative, called “Drugs and Me”. With the help of the student, he was allegedly able to advertise his van on social media, using Google Forms and online marketing resources. Money supposedly was sourced from a crowdfunding page enabled him to make purchases of crucial medical equipment, including syringes, clean needles, blue lights and even a defibrillator.
Krykant was reportedly keen to get medical students on board, and his plan was to ensure they had completed online learning modules in naloxone management, as well as attending face-to-face stimulant overdose sessions. He supposedly arranged for students to come and visit the van, where he would show them around, and discuss with them what was expected.
Ex-Labour MP Paul Sweeney has been an active advocate of the injecting rooms. Krykant alleges Mr Sweeny was in charge of running their second site and had provided “great support” by “highlighting grey areas in the law”, which Sweeney has done vehemently on his Twitter feed. Krykant made the point that both Paul and himself strongly believe that no laws are being broken, and he cited both SNP MPs Alison Thewliss for Glasgow Central and Ronnie Cowan for Inverclyde as showing fantastic support for the van’s mission.
Krykant told The Glasgow Guardian that the police had allegedly tolerated the van’s presence for the two months that it has existed for. In the eight week period over which it has been running, the operation has supposedly supervised over 50 injections so far. He described the van as providing a safe space for many vulnerable people, commenting: “It’s a way to actually support drug users into treatment… We know from places like Sydney, Australia that 80% of people who regularly attend that facility accept a referral into treatment.” He went onto further emphasise Scotland’s comparative problem, stating: “Two thirds of people who are deemed to have a problematic substance abuse issue are not in any form of treatment.”
Krykant's hope for the future is that soon the “green light” will be given for legal, regulated injecting rooms to be set up, as he feels that the current situation is not practical in the long term. Currently Glasgow is the drug death capital of Europe and there is an ongoing HIV outbreak that has spread further outwith the city centre.
Naloxone can be injected by anyone, and people are able to request it at their local pharmacy. First Aid training courses are also available via different organisations online.