Research presented at the House of Commons

Ben Scher at the House of Commons

DPhil student Ben Scher has presented research he conducted on the feasibility of Overdose Prevention Centres (OPCs) at an influential event at the House of Commons.

Ben presented at the Parliamentary Symposium on Overdose Prevention Centres at Westminster, hosted by independent scientific body Drug Science and the Faculty for Public Health.

For the past six months, Ben has been working on a research project assessing the possibility of an OPC in Sandwell, near Birmingham, in partnership with the SCORE team, a drug user advocacy group in the area.

OPCs allow people who use drugs to legally consume illegal substances under the supervision of health care professionals, within safe and sterile environments.

The symposium, attended by MPs, journalists, UK drug service providers, drug policy activists, representatives from NHS trusts and police, and academics, launched a call for the UK government to amend regulation to allow for OPCs to be piloted in the UK to ascertain their effectiveness.

'Huge honour'

Ben said: ‘It was a huge honour to attend and speak.

‘It was amazing to be in the same room and meet all the different institutional bodies and individuals championing drug policy reform in the UK.

The shift towards progressive, evidence-based drug policy is starting to gain momentum in the UK and I’m excited to be small contributor in informing this shift.’

Speakers alongside Ben included Professor Alex Stevens of the University of Kent and Dr Gillian Shorter, of Queen’s University Belfast.

Ben added: ‘It was hugely rewarding to be a part of a research project that progressed from the ethics application all the way to the stage where we got to present to policymakers who have the power to change policies and laws.'

'This experience has massively benefited my studies at DSPI by showing me that this sort of engagement is possible and is something that we can and should strive for even as students.’

Ben thanked his supervisor Dr Ben Chrisinger for supporting his work and encouraging and facilitating engagement with partners outside the department, and Dr Gillian Shorter (co-supervisor) and Mat Southwell, who lead on the project and invited him to join their research team. Ben also thanked the Sandwell SCORE team for being key contributors to the research.

Scholarship award

Ben has, additionally, been awarded a scholarship from the Society for the Study of Addiction (SSA).

Speaking about this, Ben Chrisinger said: ‘This scholarship is a great testament to the innovative approach Ben is taking to studying a complex and difficult topic.

He isn't just passionate about policy-relevant research, but is devoted to making sure those who will be most impacted by drug policies have their voices and experiences heard. We're incredibly grateful to the SSA for their recognition and support of Ben's work here at DSPI.’