A Senedd member has called for Wales to establish overdose prevention centres to save lives, reduce harm and protect communities.

Peredur Owen Griffiths warned that the number of drug deaths in Wales is up more than 50 per cent over the past 10 years, with the rate remaining higher than in England.

Mr Owen Griffiths, who chairs the cross-party group on substance use and addiction, said maintaining the status quo would do nothing to tackle shameful drug deaths in Wales.

He told MSs: “By almost any measure you want to look at, the war on drugs has failed.”

He said overdose prevention centres (OPCs) – hygienic safe spaces, where people can take drugs safely – have been adopted by 14 countries, including the US, Canada and Australia.

The Plaid Cymru MS argued OPCs, which have sterile equipment and staff who can respond immediately to an overdose, have proved a remarkable success internationally.

He told the Senedd: “They can also provide a gateway to a myriad of services that could lead to the drug users kicking the habit or, at the very least, becoming healthier, better supported and, therefore, more likely to stay alive.”

Lynne Neagle said Wales’ drug policy is rooted in a harm-reduction approach which recognises substance misuse is a public health issue as well as a criminal justice one.

Responding to the short debate on Wednesday, 20 March, the deputy minister told MSs that Welsh Government investment in the substance misuse agenda will top £67m next year.

Ms Neagle pointed out that Welsh ministers increased funding for frontline services by nearly £3m despite the most challenging budget ever.

She said that Wales has introduced access to Buvidal, a medicine used to treat dependence on opioids, which is helping more than 1,700 people.

The deputy minister stressed that powers to take forward overdose prevention centres remain at Westminster and the Home Office has poured cold water on the idea.

Ms Neagle said her officials are in close contact with counterparts in the Scottish Government, which is currently aiming to open the UK’s first overdose prevention centre.