Lynne Leonard, Emily DeRubeis, Linda Pelude, Emily Medd, Nick Birkett, Joyce Seto
30 April 2007
Among injection drug users (IDUs) in Ottawa, the capital of Canada, prevalence rates of HIV (20.6 percent) and hepatitis C HCV (75.8 percent) are among the highest in Canada. Recent research evidence suggests the potential for HCV and HIV transmission through the multi-person use of crack-smoking implements. On the basis of this scientific evidence, in April 2005, Ottawa's needle exchange programme (NEP) commenced distributing glass stems, rubber mouthpieces, brass screens, chopsticks, lip balm and chewing gum to reduce the harms associated with smoking crack.
In a surprise ruling yesterday, the British Colombia Supreme Court supported Vancouver's experimental supervised injection clinic Insite - North America's first legal supervised injection site - and halted federal attempts to close the facility. That is very good news, but the ruling went even further.
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.
Greece has set up its first "drug consumption" room to contain a surge of infectious diseases among drug addicts in the crisis-hit country, Greece's Organization Against Drugs, OKANA, said. Following similar projects in Western Europe, Canada and Australia, the centre Odysseas lets users inject drugs they bring themselves, under medical supervision, and has been visited by more than 200 addicts since it was set up in October.
The drug injection rooms ('fixerum') that opened for customers some two and a half years ago in Denmark have been hailed as a resounding success. Out of the 355,255 injections that have taken place in the rooms in Copenhagen, Odense and Aarhus since they opened in 2012, some 301 people have overdosed but not one single death has been reported. "It must be assumed that the hygienic surroundings and the qualified personnel have had a great impact in the injection rooms," the Ministry of Health found in an evaluation (here in Danish).
In September 2012, the mayor of Bogotá, Gustavo Petro, launched the first centre for drug addicts in the Bronx, a marginalised city-centre neighbourhood. Called the Medical Care Centre for Dependent Drug Users (Centro de Atención Médica a Drogodependientes - CAMAD), it is staffed by psychiatrists, psychologists, doctors and nurses. The people given care in these centres are in an at-risk situation and socially excluded due to their high levels of drug dependency.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Colombia's chief public prosecutor has called for a referendum on whether to legalise drug consumption, in response to plans to set up a network of public centres where users can consume illicit drugs under supervision. The so-called “controlled consumption centres” are part of a drive by Gustavo Petro, the mayor of the capital, Bogotá, to reduce drug-related crime in the city.
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.
Daniel Vaillant (PS), a suggéré de réfléchir à la création d’une salle de consommation de crack, une fois que la «salle de shoot» de la gare du Nord aura été mise en place. «Je pense qu’il faut d’abord mettre sur pied la salle de consommation à moindre risque du côté de la gare du Nord. Mais il conviendrait de réfléchir avec les praticiens à l’ouverture d’une salle pour les consommateurs de crack, sous forme expérimentale», a déclaré l’ancien ministre de l’Intérieur à l’AFP.
The Irish public is being invited to have a say in what is thought to be the country’s first official examination of the decriminalisation of drugs for personal use. The Justice Committee is seeking submissions from people and organisations on alternatives to the current model of criminalisation. It comes on the back of a committee trip to Portugal, where a delegation studied its model of decriminalisation of the possession of drugs.
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.
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.
French officials across the political spectrum have expressed support for "shooting galleries", where addicts could use drugs under medical supervision. Such centres exist in several other European countries. The debate over "shooting galleries" started in the headquarters of an anti-addiction association located in the Belleville neighbourhood of Paris. In May 2009, the association, called ASUD (Self-support and Risk Reduction among Drug Users) opened a centre in which addicts could use drugs under medical supervision.
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.