Hi Reddit, I’m Peter Krykant, I’m a former homeless injecting drug user. I spent 10 months driving a converted ambulance around Glasgow, allowing drug users to inject drugs in the ambulance in a safe and supervised way. I set this up entirely myself, with no backing from local authorities or the Scottish or UK government.

Scotland has the highest amount of drug deaths in Europe, with over 1300 deaths in the last year. I could no longer stand by and let more people die so I set up my ambulance as an overdose prevention service, an internationally recognised way to prevent drug deaths that sadly has no support from any UK political party.

Running the service had a huge financial and emotional impact and I lost my job. But I now work as a project lead for Cranstoun, a charity helping to create changes in the system to support those most in need

I shared my experiences in a new documentary by PoliticsJOE about the phenomenon of men dying in Scotland from alcohol, drugs, and suicide. The leading causes of death among 15–44 year-old men in the country are drug-related deaths and suicide and Scotland is now the drug death capital of Europe. Since the 1980s, deaths from heart disease, cancer and stroke have fallen dramatically, while those from alcohol, suicide and, particularly, drugs have risen to record-breaking levels. PoliticsJOE’s new film What’s Killing Scottish Men? aims to explore why.

I'll be answering questions from 4pm GMT. AMA!


Check out the documentary here.

And the long read by Oli Dugmore here.

EDIT: Thanks for that guys, I've got to go and pick up my kids. Make sure you check out the documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1pvCj-_g5AM

Comments: 335 • Responses: 23  • Date: 

calger142015 karma

Hi Peter,

I'm currently an officer in the Metropolitan Police. As you can imagine I deal with a large number of homeless drug users some of whom are the most prolific thiefs and burglars on my borough. Obviously the Misuse of Drugs act is totally unfit for purpose and the whole system needs rewriting I know. Thinking small scale, what's the best thing I can do during my short interactions with homeless drug users (whether in a criminal situation or not) to find then help?

I understand one brief interaction might not be able to do much and we do generally put on a report that social services see but any suggestions help. Thanks for everything you do, it's amazing and projects like yours should receive so much more support than they do.

Edit: just to clear it for a few, Metropolitan Police in London, UK :-)

politicsjoe29 karma

Thank you, it's amazing to know we have caring police officers on the front line that support change and know that locking up the same people time and time again just doesn't work.

Finding out where people are at and a few kind words can make all the difference. Directing people to local treatment providers who can hopefully support them onto medication rather than relying on supply from criminal gangs, who they need to find money to buy from.

Again thank you for the service.

nu2allthis233 karma

I have a few if that's alright:

How did you pay for it initially, especially after losing your job? Do you empathise with people who have a level of hatred towards drug users because they've been personally affected (i.e. people who've been robbed for drug money etc?) How have you dealt with police or security when stopped or questioned? Is there any legislation in Scotland which makes this legal or covers you from prosecution?

Finally, on a lighter note, what's your favourite thing to eat or drink since becoming sober?

Well done on your efforts btw, and thank you: my brother died from drug-related suicide when I was 15. You're stopping that from being the case for other young men who would otherwise lose important role models.

politicsjoe277 karma

GoFundMe covered most of the costs although I did get into about 10 grand of debt.
If we provide a safe supply and regulated drugs people would have no need to steal but of course I empathise with those affected.

There’s no legal framework in Scotland but these centres aren’t illegal under the Misuse of Drugs Act, that’s why they never closed us down.
I like a non-alcoholic beer and Thai food.

nu2allthis38 karma

Thanks for the response!

With regards to the empathise question, I completely agree with you regarding safety and regulation. However, I find it hard to disagree with people when they feel that their society has been decimated by what they see as other people's bad choices. What do you say to them?

Which non-alcoholic beer? Have you had the 0% Guinness yet? It's incredible!

politicsjoe96 karma

I get that thinking but it’s the bad choices of government that have got us here, dating back to the war on drugs in 1971 when Nixon called for an all out offensive that the UK joined. Not tried the Guinness yet.

LadySovereign92 karma

I work at a syringe exchange in the United States. We hand out syringes and narcan to people at a given location, but we still probably only interact with a small fraction of people who inject drugs in this city and are always working on reaching more people to try to help. How did you find your participants? How do you reach communities that are pushed into the darkness, homeless, etc?

Also, greatly appreciate the work you are doing. Harm reduction practices need to adopted everywhere with how poisoned the drug supply is.

politicsjoe88 karma

I agree we need these sites everywhere. We don’t even have synthetics in the heroin supply in Scotland and we have deaths rates highest in Europe.

To reach people I just parked next to an injection site alleyway and they came. It was pretty easy, they all appreciated it so much.

politicsjoe57 karma

That's me away guys, I have to pick up the kids. Make sure you check out the documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1pvCj-_g5AM. Merry Christmas!

samasante49 karma

With the success Portugal has had with decriminalising drugs, why do you think other Govts. particularly the UK govt are so slow to act, and how can we best educate the population to end the stigma around addiction?

politicsjoe108 karma

There's too much money in the current system. From the courts to prisons, it's a multi-billion pound industry. They also don't care about people from the most deprived areas.

somebodyoncetoldme__34 karma

Hey Peter, what do you think about the UK government’s current approach to drug policy?

politicsjoe88 karma

It's the worst around. We need systematic changes to drug policy. The only people who benefit from the current policy are the criminal gangs.

theduggfather28 karma

Hi Peter, could you tell us more about how the police interacted with the overdose prevention van?

politicsjoe87 karma

At first they monitored it but then stepped back. They once tried to enter the van to search a homeless drug user and then charged me with an alleged obstruction.

But by the end they were really quite supportive, most police see the Misuse of Drugs Act is a failure.

Plastic-Major410227 karma

How did you stop being homeless/stop using drugs?

The personal risk you are taking for the protection of others is heroic.

politicsjoe42 karma

It was a long process of engagement in different services and many scary moments of relapse after being pushed into the drug free strategy before I wanted to stop.

Thanks, it means a lot to know people think what we did meant something.

TParis00ap24 karma

Wouldn't doing this carry a heavy risk of liability? Do you need insurance? What do you do if someone overdoses and you can't save them? Do you rush them to a hospital? What if the family sues you and accuses you of enabling the overdose?

politicsjoe89 karma

Yes, an unsanctioned site did carry a heavy risk but there is more chance of someone dying in an alleyway without help or support than in an overdose prevention site. There’s not been one recorded death in a site yet.

Overdoses are easy to deal with when you have the training, I was prepared for anything. I put my own personal life and financial security on the line to do this as 4 people are dying every day in Scotland unnecessarily.

kraftymiles24 karma

Nice work feller. I see it turned up in Bristol this week.

How did the police and council initially react to the van and how are they reacting in other cities?

politicsjoe44 karma

I think the general feeling is these are needed. People now are sick and tired of the old approach and this includes the police. They're tired of trying to arrest their way out a problem they know they can't.

LiberalAgendaz15 karma

Hi Peter, do you think a system like Portugal's could work for scotland?

politicsjoe52 karma

It would but the funds saved from sending people to prison need put into the treatment system. We could even introduce the Switzerland model within the current MODA1971 Act.

It uses the four pillars of harm reduction, treatment, prevention and repression.

rededelk14 karma

Do you work with pill poppers? I lost a friend to suicide who capped his self at 24 y.o. Really hit me in the gut when I heard

politicsjoe18 karma

I will work with anyone but the ambulance was for injecting drug users. Sorry to hear of the loss.

EdsBallsyBalls8 karma

How much of the blame can be laid at the SNP's door and how much is the central government, in your opinion?

politicsjoe39 karma

The SNP and UK government have both made huge mistakes with drug free society strategies that date back to 2008/2010.

The SNP cut budgets in 2016 following a terrible year that lead to the highest increase in drug deaths on record with a 27% jump from 2017 to 2018.

But the SNP and all Scottish parties (apart from the Tories) Aside) now want to make wholesale changes which would reduce deaths but can't because of the Tory UK government.

dogforpresident6 karma

Thanks for doing this! A few questions: Do you have any success stories to share about how your safe consumption site has made a positive impact on someone’s life?

I feel like there is a lot of hate and dehumanization aimed at drug users, do you agree? If so, what has it been like for you facing that as both a leader for your organization and also as someone who was in that lifestyle?

What do you think is the biggest thing that needs to change in order to prevent more people falling victim to drug addiction?

politicsjoe35 karma

Some of the highlights was giving new shoes and clothes to people. Also seeing people reduce their harmful injecting practice. Like people who would inject in their groin moving to less harmful areas because they were in the heat with good lighting as opposed to a freezing cold lane.

Ultimately some people are still alive because we were there. We reversed 7 heroin overdoses and helped in 2 cocaine overdoses. The biggest thing we can do is take supply away from the criminal gangs and give safe medical supply and also proper education. Say "know" rather than say "no".

Hunterianafronted6 karma

Let's get down to the nitty gritty; Rangers or Celtic?

politicsjoe29 karma

Stenhousemuir - #thewarriors

samasante6 karma

If Scotland was to decriminalise or introduce widespread consumption rooms do you think UK government would intervene to prevent it?

politicsjoe18 karma

No, they are not going to send in the tanks. I proved they are not against the law for injection purposes. It would be different for smoking but we just want injection sites for now.

Ulteriorvision5 karma

You mentioned deaths between 15-44 are these overdose related directly and how often have you seen addicted drug users get clean and start a life recovery process?

Was your ambulance also there for resuscitation for worst case scenarios?

Also are there any notable individuals that left a lasting impact on you and have you witnessed an overdose, what was the toll of such tragic encounter?

thank you for your time

politicsjoe25 karma

I had a couple of strong connections. A young woman of 20 overdosed twice and we brought her round twice. I identified with her and I was impacted I think as I was that age when I was homeless and publicly injecting.

I know people become drug free and live happy long lives but a drug free world is not the answer to the overdose crisis. It’s safe consumption and safe supply.

Albertinia3 karma

Hi, thank you for doing this, it's so important.I work in a nightshelter for addicted homeless people in Belgium. I'm fairly untrained but learnt a lot from working there. We also provide clean using material to reduce the harm.

I am curious about how you deal with people who are super high/down on drugs. Sometimes it's easy but it can be a hassle. I don't know how to phrase this better. How do you approach severe situatioins?

Do you get a lot of agression caused by the people you help? Just wondering since we get a lot of shit by just wanting to help out, provide food and a place to sleep.

Thanks a lot for your honourable project!

ETA: And tons of respect for getting clean, what an accomplishment!

politicsjoe8 karma

In my experience this tends to happen more with alcohol than other drugs.

For me it’s about being relatable. Also, I was once in that position, I got nothing but great appreciation from people who would otherwise be injecting in some rat infested alleyway.

cheapsnakeoil0 karma

What is your opinion on a Northern Irish guy called Liam Neeson ?

politicsjoe12 karma

Decent actor

YourFavouriteCousin-1 karma

What’s your favourite TV show at the moment?

politicsjoe6 karma

I have just started watching Game of Thrones. I know it's old but just didn't catch it first time around. I'm into season two now after just a few days of starting it.

we_all_gon_die_-2 karma

Don't you think you are supporting their habit for consumption while providing this service?

Not saying someone should die, but as a general sense if they find a place like your ambulance, it would give them a sense of support to continue using drugs.

What are your thoughts on this?

politicsjoe15 karma

Drugs should be regulated and it should not be up to anyone what people do.

However, those who have problematic drug use are often supported into treatment via safer injection sites, as seen at other safe injecting sites from around the world.

bigdaddy0852-9 karma


politicsjoe8 karma

We would help direct people to treatment providers but as an unsanctioned site there was little we could do. Our purpose was always to save lives while operating. We wanted to keep people safe from HIV at the height of the largest outbreak in the UK for 30 years and to push for an official site that could provide all the wrap around support.

If you are talking about a drug free society, you are just buying into the narrative that drugs are bad therefore the solution is to get every one of them. Drugs are not bad, drug policy is bad. Prohibition creates the problem and the criminal justice system can create more issues than the drugs themselves.