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Paris Opens First Legal Drug Consumption Room

In a country where medical marijuana for cancer patients is still forbidden in many states, the U.S. is unlikely to start instituting drug consumption rooms anytime soon. But while it may seem like a radical undertaking stateside, these rooms are hardly a new phenomenon throughout the world.

The Drug Room Concept

More than 90 drug consumption rooms have been set up since 1986 and are facilitated by 10 nations: Australia, Canada, Luxembourg, Norway, Switzerland, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark and France. Numerous studies have also found that these facilities not only lower public drug use, but have also lowered crime rates and even saved lives in the process.

France is banking on that being the case. Earlier this month, they announced plans to open up their first drug consumption room in Paris. Although the so-called fix room is only operating on an experimental basis, it could have significant impact on the more than 80,000 intravenous drug users throughout France.

The Parisian Protests

Not surprisingly, plenty of people throughout France have objected to the new facility.

“Opening a fix room is taking a step towards legalization of drugs,” said Serge Lebigot, the president of the organization Parents contre la drogue, in a new report by RFI. “There’s also the problem of the kind of message this sends to young people. When children see a fix room, they’ll tell you, ‘Why don’t we have the right to take drugs, since it is allowed here?’”

Although nurses witness and supervise the injections that take place in these rooms, that doesn’t mean the drug use is necessarily safer. In the two consumption rooms recently launched in Copenhagen, Denmark, approximately 135 people overdosed on site in the first year.

Citing Danish Statistics

However, these sites do far more than try to help people consume illegal drugs safely. The Danish consumption rooms have helped over 1,000 users obtain housing and medical care through the country’s welfare system. Many of these sites also help users gain access to inpatient treatment or outpatient support groups to help kick their addiction.

“We used to think police could solve all these problems alone. But that doesn’t work,” said Deputy Police Inspector Kaj Lykke Majlund. “We have to understand that drug users — the severely addicted — they need help. They need treatment, not punishment.”

Promoting or Preventing Drug Abuse?

The drug consumption sites collectively say they are combining the greatest possible level of safety while using with resources to eventually get clean when the addict is ready. They point to the success of safe injection sites, claiming these organizations create a win-win situation for both the user and their community.

It’s vital to point out that Insite, Vancouver’s pioneer drug consumption room, experienced a rash of fatal overdoses last year. After more than 15 overdose deaths on the property, Canadian citizens were prompted to re-evaluate the whether or not Insite’s services were doing more harm than good.

The question is whether or not consumption rooms are encouraging drug use or providing addicts with the necessary tools to get clean. But as with anything, it’s up to the user whether they want to take advantage of it and, if they always have somewhere to use, will they choose recovery before it’s too late?


Additional ReadingWeekend Drug Use Usually Turns into Weekday Use