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.
As a senior police official in northern England calls for safe rooms for the injection of hard drugs, attention has focused on similar projects around Europe. They point to an experiment in Copenhagen, which Danish police say has saved lives and helped clean up drug-ridden districts. Addicts bring their own drugs, which remain illegal in Denmark, but police in this neighbourhood, Vesterbro, no longer prosecute them for possession.
Since the launch of the room, the quantity of drug paraphernalia collected from gutters, playgrounds, stairwells and doorways in the area has halved. Vesterbro also appears to be a place where the desperate are seemingly becoming a little less desperate. Burglaries in the wider area are down by about 3%, theft from vehicles and violence down about 5%, and possession of weapons also down. "From the police perspective, I can see the benefits," says Superintendent Henrik Orye. "It feels calmer."
Brighton is set to be the first British city to offer official "drug consumption rooms" where addicts can use heroin, crack and cocaine under supervision without fear of prosecution. The city's public health leaders will "give serious consideration" to the plan in order to save lives. A report published from an independent drugs commission led by the crime author Peter James and Mike Trace, a former UK deputy drugs tsar, is expected to say that drug consumption rooms "significantly reduce overdose death rates" and do not encourage further use.
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.
Some obstacles remain before the injection room, which may cost as much as 18 million kroner to set up, can become a reality - including an expected law change that will decriminalise the taking of drugs in the facility. "It will sadly take over a year to establish the injection room in Mændenes Hjem," Warming said. "That is why we have created the temporary injection room in the health centre."
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.
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.
Drugs Minister Aodhan O'Riordain from Ireland has said he wants to see legislation introducing injection centres for addicts before the next election. The newly-appointment minister says he wants to see people who inject heroin in alleyways and apartment block stairwells provided with a safe, medically supervised location. O'Riordain replied by saying "legislation will be this year" as he still has "some convincing to do". "I have a short time to deliver these things, nine months max before the next general election."
Drug users in Paris will be able to inject themselves in a secure and monitored environment after a site near the city’s busy Gare du Nord was agreed by the city authorities. The drug consumption room would be open “by the autumn” and, once functioning, will provide free needles to drug users in a sterile environment monitored by healthcare professionals. The project is aimed at reducing the number of people taking drugs in the street, in common areas of apartment buildings and other areas such as car parks.
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.
France’s health minister, Marisol Touraine, has said trial centres where drug addicts can safely inject their own drugs with sterile needles provided by medical professionals could open before the end of the year in a handful of French cities. “I hope that experimental trials will be announced before the end of the year,” Touraine told French BFM television, adding that a handful of cities were ready to test the new program.
Drug users in France will soon have a state-sanctioned place where they can use heroin, crack and other intravenous drugs, after the government approved a pilot site in Paris. The City Council had already voted to allow a secure injection site to be opened in the city, a controversial measure, which social workers say should help to reduce the number of drug users in the streets.
Luxembourg's Parliament is to debate the decriminalisation of consumption of cannabis, the health minister said while outlining a new drug prevention programme. The minister said she hoped to raise awareness among young people of the risks surrounding cannabis consumption as well as the use of other, legal drugs, such as alcohol and tobacco.
BBC Mundo reports that Bogotá is planning a system of "controlled consumption centers," where addicts could be weaned off more hard-core drugs, such as heroin or crack (bazuco), and slowly introduced to pot. Because of its continued prevalence, as well as its toxicity, bazuco will be one of the drugs targeted by Mayor Gustavo Petro's planned treatment centers. The treatment centers are part of a larger movement in Colombia to classify drug addiction as an issue of public health rather than crime.
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.
Peter Sarosi, Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU)
16 January 2013
Last year the HCLU’s video advocacy group travelled to Vancouver, to make a film about Insite, the only legally-operating injecting facility in North America. When we arrived at Hastings Street, in Vancouver's downtown Eastside, where Insite is located, we were taken aback by the magnitude of the street drug scene we found there.
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.
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.
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.