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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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."
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.
Mobile injection rooms have been operated for the past year out of two former ambulances. Run by the private organisation Foreningen Fixerum and staffed by volunteer healthcare workers, the rooms-on-wheels offered a safe and hygienic place, off the streets, for drug users to inject. The City Council took over the project earlier this year when the long legal battle to establish stationary injection rooms was finally won.
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.
This paper examined whether use of crack cocaine has become a risk factor for HIV infection. Smoking of crack cocaine was found to be an independent risk factor for HIV seroconversion among injection drug users. This finding points to the urgent need for evidence-based public health initiatives targeted at people who smoke crack cocaine. Innovative interventions that have the potential to reduce HIV transmission in this population, including the distribution of safer crack kits and medically supervised inhalation rooms, need to be evaluated.
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.
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."
The first drug consumption room for opiate-dependent persons in Germany was opened in Frankfort on the Main in December 1994. In March 2003 there were 19 drug consumption rooms in the Federal Republic of Germany: These institutions provide several hundred drug injecting places; they are used every day by several thousand addicts several times a day.
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.
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."
Ignoring all the scientific evidence, Canada Health Minister Tony Clement will move to close Canada's only sanctioned safe-injection site, announcing it will appeal a British Colombia court ruling that Vancouver's Insite should stay open because reducing the risk of drug overdoses is a vital health service.