On the 7th April 2015, the French National Assembly ruled in favour of holding trials with low-risk drug consumption rooms, more commonly referred to as ‘drug consumption rooms’. This experience will last for a maximum of six years and will affect drug-addicted adults who use in rather unhygienic conditions.
Between public health and peace
The Forum has worked on the topic of drug use for many years, whether it is at the European or national level, with the principle that public health and peace issues are directly linked and must not be dissociated. Because drug use also has an impact on the ground, whether it affects the underground economy or the use of public spaces, being able to succeed with these public peace issues is something the mayor must respond to.
If reducing drug consumption is essential, we must also ensure that this consumption produces as little damage as possible, whether this is for the users themselves or others. Thus, the response can only be global: we must integrate prevention, care, risk reduction as well as repression.
From 2013, FFSU’s Executive Committee members have adopted a position in favour of experimenting with supervised consumption rooms through a political resolution (Read in French). Indeed, they see this scheme as a concrete response for ‘bringing a balanced response to public health and safety.’ In terms of health, the consumption rooms can enable better medical access and regular follow-up for drug users. For safety, these measures help to reduce instances of drug consumption in public places and to reduce the feeling of insecurity which could be felt by inhabitants.
For the effective undertaking of this experimental process, the elected officials thus recommend: implementing a preliminary diagnosis, the opinion of the Regional Health Agency, a precise evaluation of set objectives as well as territorial support. In order to do this, all stakeholders must be consulted. Furthermore, as expressed in the Aubervilliers and Saint-Denis Manifesto (Efus, 2012), it is necessary to associate the population, and more particularly users at any stage.
Various situations in Europe
Other European countries have been implementing such measures for a long time. The Netherlands are amongst the first to establish these type of rooms since the 1970s, while the latter were not yet officially recognised. In the ‘90s Germany started; then Australia and Canada in 2000, to offer low-risk consumption rooms (SCMR). Spain, Portugal, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Norway now compile the list of those countries integrating these spaces in their drug policies. In June 2012, after more than 10 years of controversy, the Danish Parliament voted on a law legally mandating municipalities to be able to open SCMRs.
On the other hand, Italy has not yet validated this type of trial. In Belgium, the project of supervised injection rooms is regularly brought to the table by associative stakeholders in the drug addiction sector. In the city of Liege, Willy Demeyer (PS), the Mayor and Member of Parliament, is very active in trying to obtain trial rooms in the territory whereas the government opposes it. These issues will be at the centre of debates during the 3rd meeting on low-risk consumption rooms on the 28th April in Brussels.
However, only the Netherlands (with 45 SCMRs in 30 different cities) and Switzerland (with 12 SCMR in 8 different cities) ensure national coverage of these consumption rooms. If not, for the majority of cases, the SCMR are only established in specific capitals or regions.
Efus remains attentive to the results of these trials which seem promising in terms of risk reduction for both users and inhabitants.