Medically supervised shooting galleries for drug users will open in Dublin next year, said the chief of Ireland’s National Drugs Strategy, the Irish Times reported.

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said on Monday the supervised injection rooms will be part of a “radical cultural shift” in the country’s approach to drug addiction. Ó Ríordáin, who outlined his ideas in a speech to the London School of Economics, also plans to establish similar rooms in Cork, Galway, and Limerick.

“Research has shown that the use of supervised injecting centers is associated with self-reported reductions in injecting risk behaviors,” said Ó Ríordáin, the Irish Times reported.

Supervised injection rooms would engage hard-to-reach populations of drug users, including the homeless, who would otherwise create risks to themselves and the public, said Ó Ríordáin. This is not the first time the minister has spoken openly of his wish to implement evidence-based, progressive drug policy in Ireland, according to a news release from the London School of Economics. The policy shift he proposed will also include decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of drugs, including heroin, cocaine, and cannabis.

One study of lifetime illicit drug use in Ireland estimated an increase from 24 percent in 2007 to 27.2 percent in 2011, said the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction. However, the proportion of people reporting use of drugs over the last year or last month remained unchanged. A separate 2006 study estimated a total of 20,790 opiate users in Ireland between the ages of 15 and 64 (or 7.2 per 1,000 people), with two-thirds living in Dublin.

Meanwhile, a joint report from the United Nations and other international organizations estimates the number of people who inject drugs (PWID) worldwide to be 12.19 million in 2013, with the highest prevalence to be found in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, where 1.27 percent of the general population between 15 and 64 may be injecting drugs. This rate is nearly five times the global average. That said, three countries combined, the Russian Federation, China and the United States, account for nearly half of the global total number of PWID.

Over the past decade in Cork city, the majority of the reported 87 heroin-related deaths were caused by polysubstance abuse, where users take other drugs (such as valium and Xanax) along with heroin, the Irish Times reported last week. While these numbers are tiny, the Times noted there were no heroin-related deaths in Cork prior to 2004.

“I am firmly of the view that there needs to be a cultural shift in how we regard substance misuse if we are to break this cycle and make a serious attempt to tackle drug and alcohol addiction,” Ó Ríordáin said.