Scientists, lawyers, police, social workers, doctors and directors of public prosecution are pleading for change but no political party will touch the issue in Australia. Public debate on the subject remains as primitive as ever. After all these years we are still dealing with the basics – over and over again. That's no accident. It's what moral panic driven by some media does.
The thirty-five year fight to establish permanent injection rooms for drug addicts is now over after the government announced last week that such facilities would be up and running by 2013. But long-time campaigners are bracing themselves for news on the guidelines for how the rooms are to be run. The government will present a catalogue outlining the current drug legislation and amendments that will need to be made in order for injection rooms to become legal.
The film crew of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU) attended the first meeting of the European Harm Reduction Network (EuroHRN) in Marseille, France. We interviewed professionals and activists from several countries to give you an overview of the current state of harm reduction in Europe – please watch and share our movie!
The government’s indecision over plans to set up a permanent injection room for drug addicts may cost the lives of over 100 users, according to Michael Lodberg Olsen, the organiser of a mobile injection room. Astrid Krag, the health minister, last week scaled back the government’s election promise to have a permanent room set up by the end of the year.
On Monday September 12 Denmark’s first mobile injection room made its maiden voyage, driving from Victoriagade to Reventlowsgade behind Central Station. The room is actually an outdated German ambulance that has room for three intravenous drug addicts, and a doctor and a nurse who can give first aid or other medical assistance. The introduction of the mobile injection rooms draws to a close 35 years of pointless drugs policies in Vesterbro.
A diplomatic cable shows U.S. officials opposed the Insite supervised injection site in Vancouver and wanted the federal and municipal governments to shut it down. The reference to Vancouver-based Insite is found in a U.S. Embassy assessment of Canadian drug policy dated Nov. 2, 2009 and released through Wikileaks.
The Supreme Court of Canada has opened the door to supervised drug injection clinics across the country in a landmark decision that ordered the federal government to stop interfering with Vancouver’s controversial Insite clinic. The Court was persuaded by evidence that drug addicts are considerably safer administering their own injections under medical surveillance rather than obtaining and injecting hard drugs on the streets of the city’s troubled Downtown Eastside.
Two out-of-service ambulances have been put back into service as mobile injection rooms for drug addicts in Copenhagen (Denmark). The vehicles will be used to transport a team of volunteer doctors and nurses and a stock of clean needles in the Vesterbro district.
About two decades after the U.S. emerged from the worst of its own crack epidemic, Brazilian authorities are watching the cheap drug spread across this country of 190 million people. They have far fewer resources to deal with it, despite a booming economy that expanded 7.5 percent last year. Walter Maierovitch, a former drug czar, proposes programs that offer adults health services and a safe place to use drugs. "Insisting on programs that demand abstinence doesn't work," he said.
Insite’s operators have twice applied for a federal health exemption to allow crack cocaine smokers to use the room – the request was rejected in 2006, ignored in 2009. Proponents say the room would allow health officials to reach a fast-growing segment of drug users, a group prone to viruses because of dirty crack pipes. Critics say scientific evidence for the benefits of supervised inhalation rooms is scant.
Under tough judicial grilling, the Harper government conceded it had no evidence to counter scientific research showing supervised drug injections save lives and reduce harm to addicts. Federal lawyers said a final decision had not been made whether to extend or end a legal exemption for Vancouver’s Insite injection clinic before local health authorities launched a lawsuit in 2008 to save it. But they were at a loss to explain the basis for the Conservative government’s stated reluctance to allow it to continue.
When the Supreme Court of Canada convenes to consider Vancouver’s supervised injection site, it will hear detailed arguments that hinge on the fine print of the Canadian Constitution. But besides being a landmark showdown between federal and provincial powers, the hearing also sets the stage for a ruling expected to affect not only the daily lives of injection drug users on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside but drug policy across the country and potentially farther afield.
Vancouver’s supervised drug-injection clinic, Insite, saves lives and prevents human misery. Providing addicts with a safe, sterile place to inject heroin and other drugs is a pragmatic and effective way to curb the spread of infectious disease, including HIV/AIDs and hepatitis B and C, and to reduce substance abuse and overdoses. Yet the federal government persists in opposing it, viewing Insite not as a critical component of British Columbia’s health-based approach to treating addiction, but as a stark violation of criminal law.
Divided by politics but united by drug policy, five former Vancouver mayors have issued a last-minute plea to Ottawa to drop its appeal of earlier court decisions approving Insite, the city’s supervised drug injection site. “Since opening in 2003, Insite has proven – beyond a doubt – its worth to our community,” the five ex-mayors say in an open letter issued to the federal Conservative government. Open letter supporting Insite from Vancouver mayors.
InSite does not operate under the assumption that addiction is incurable. We believe in recovery; in fact, the biggest difference between our approach to recovery and the opinion expressed by Barbara Kay in her recent column (Rehab still the best solution for addiction) is that we believe it should be possible even for addicts who are not ready to get clean. InSite’s purpose is to help prevent addicts from dying, either from an overdose or from a disease, before they get a chance to recover.
For all the thunderous warnings about Stephen Harper’s hidden agenda, there has been remarkably little talk in this election about one of the few real examples of Conservative social conservatism – namely, the party’s stunningly steadfast opposition to the Insite supervised injection facility in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
The number of drug-overdose deaths on Vancouver’s notorious downtown Eastside fell sharply after the opening of a safe injection site, new research shows. The study, published online Monday in the medical journal The Lancet, shows that fatal overdoses dropped 35 per cent in the vicinity of Insite in the two years after it opened. By comparison, OD deaths dropped only 9 per cent in the rest of Vancouver in that same period.
A health-care facility that saves lives and prevents the transmission of deadly diseases should be hailed as an innovative advancement in medical care – not a political football to be punted around by the government of the day. Unfortunately, however, the federal Conservatives continue to play deadly games with Insite, North America’s first supervised injection site.
A legal, city-funded center where intravenous drug users can get needles and shoot up without consequence is on the agenda in San Francisco. The idea comes from the city's Hepatitis C Task Force, created by then-Mayor Gavin Newsom in 2009 in response to growing concern over the 12,000 San Francisco residents infected by the disease, most of whom have no idea of their status. Opening the nation's first legal injection drug center garnered unanimous support by the task force.
Eberhard Schatz, Katrin Schiffer, John Peter Kools
15 January 2011
This paper, written in collaboration with the Correlation Network, briefly describes the history and the basic elements of the Dutch drug dependence treatment policy, including recent trends in drug use and the current drug treatment system implemented in the four largest cities in the Netherlands. Building on more than 30 years’ experience, the Dutch approach focuses on an integrated treatment system, which provides comprehensive support and services to the most vulnerable groups, including homeless people, problematic drug users and chronic psychiatric patients. At the same time, a strong emphasis is given to public order and crime reduction.