Evan Wood, Patricia M. Spittal, Will Small, Thomas Kerr, Kathy Li, Robert S. Hogg, Mark W. Tyndall, Julio S.G. Montaner, Martin T. Schechter
10 May 2004
Law enforcement is often used in an effort to reduce the social, community and health-related harms of illicit drug use by injection drug users (IDUs). There are, however, few data on the benefits of such enforcement or on the potential harms. A large-scale police “crackdown” to control illicit drug use in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside provided us with an opportunity to evaluate the effect.
Drug consumption rooms have been established in several countries, where confirmed drug users are allowed to consume their drugs in hygienic conditions and without fear of arrest. These facilities, which mostly operate in big cities, emerged because of serious health and public order problems associated with drug use, especially drug injecting in public places. In 2004, there were about 60 consumption rooms in 36 European cities and two pilot projects of medically supervised injecting centres in Australia and Canada.
The conventions do not contain, refer to or define “harm reduction”. The three conventions refer to measures against drug abuse. Article 38 of the 1961 Convention refers to the need for a State to take measures for the prevention of drug abuse and for the early identification, treatment, aftercare, rehabilitation and social reintegration of drug abusers. Article 14 of the 1988 Convention requires parties to adopt appropriate measures aimed at eliminating or reducing illicit demand for narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, with a view to reducing human suffering. The ultimate aim of the conventions is to reduce harm.