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.
The new president of France, François Hollande, is not likely to change cannabis policies. His choice as Minister of the Interior, Manuel Valls, is a declared opponent to any reform on cannabis. During the election campaign, Hollande already opposed the proposal to convert the criminal offence of cannabis use into misdemeanour, put forward by his security adviser and mayor of Dijon, François Rebsamen. Hollande did not want to “give any signal foregoing a deterrent against the use of cannabis."
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.
The Norwegian government it wants to decriminalise the inhalation of heroin, a method considered less dangerous than injecting it, to reduce the number of overdoses in the country. The move would make smoking heroin an offense on par with injecting, which is illegal in Norway but tolerated. Oslo's municipality operates a site where heroin addicts can inject drugs under safer, more hygienic circumstances.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s statement about the failures of Canada's drug policy is mostly on point. It’s just the last bit he gets wrong: “I think what everyone believes and agrees with, and to be frank myself, is that the current approach is not working, but it is not clear what we should do.” He’s wrong, because we know what we should do: Supervised injection sites; prescription heroin; medical cannabis dispensaries; crack pipe distribution; drug testing kits; Naloxone for reversing opioid overdose.
Staff at Copenhagen’s first legal drug injection room have saved 30 lives since it opened last autumn, according to metroXpress newspaper.The deputy mayor for social affairs, Mikkel Warming (Enhedslisten), contends that the success of the injection room should be expanded across the city. The deputy mayor, however, is not likely to get the Konservative party to support the move. Konservative's legal spokesperson, Tom Behnke would rather introduce prescription heroin and increase efforts to rehabilitate addicts.
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 personal use of illegal drugs, including heroin and crack cocaine, should be decriminalized as part of a federal-provincial strategy to tackle drug abuse, the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition argues. Their report, Getting To Tomorrow, denounces the Harper government’s aggressive war on drugs, which puts the emphasis on law enforcement while steering money away from harm-reduction initiatives like Vancouver’s supervised injection site. (See also: Call to legalize 'hard' drugs meets opposition)
For three years, the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users’ (VANDU) operated an unsanctioned, peer-run “safer smoking room” for crack users in a small ventilated washroom in its Downtown Eastside facility. It protected crack users from violence, connected them with health care services, kept them away from public spaces and prevented the spread of disease from pipe-sharing, according to the authors of a recently-published study titled “We need somewhere to smoke crack.”
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
Many residents of Vesterbro have lived alongside the local homeless and drug-addict populations for decades. But for the sake of the drug users’ health – as well as the hope to reduce crime and avoid exposing children to drug culture – many have long demanded that the city provide a room where drug users can inject their drugs under the supervision of healthcare experts.
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.
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.