France opens 'safe-injection' rooms for addicts
France has opened a 'safe-injection' room for drug addicts. The room will stay open for a trial period of six years. It will be located near the Gare du Nord station in Northern Paris where the sale and consumption of illegal drugs is rampant. France will now be the tenth country worldwide to open a government-sanctioned and financed and medically-supervised drug injection site.
According to data available from the French health ministry, since 2011 more than 10% of drug abusers in France have HIV/Aids and over 40% are infected with hepatitis C. Unprotected sex and use of dirty needles are considered the main reasons for virus transmission. 'Safe-injection rooms' exist in several countries in Europe, and also Canada and Australia to reduce crime and public drug consumption.
"We can see, in case-after-case where drug consumption rooms have been opened, tremendous improvements. Not only for the health and well-being of people who use drugs; we see remarkable benefits to the broader community in terms of reduction in public injection and public order concerns."
Addicts under the age of 18 cannot enter. There is a check-in process which requires drug users to provide their date of birth and name but they do have the option of remaining anonymous. First-time visitors are also interviewed by doctors with respect to basic medical history. However, individuals 'bring their own drugs'; staff there do not provide or help with injecting physically.
The 'safe-injection' room will be located close to a hospital; intravenous drug users will be allowed free access to clean needles and other equipment. The room will be operated by Gaia, an association that operates 'needle exchanges' and promotes 'harm reduction'. It will also be staffed by medical personnel such as doctors and nurses; social workers and security guards will also be present.
The French government's health care system will finance the room and the equipment. There will be a waiting and a consumption room with 12 injection stations. Fifty-people can be accommodated at one time and upto 400 people can be served in one day.
The presence of medical supervisors and drug counselors in the 'safe-injection' room would ensure that intravenous drug users do not get any viral infections and to intervene in case of an overdose. Drug users will also be able to access counselling and speak to someone for the purposes of rehabilitation assistance should they so require. The 'safe-injection room' essentially "targets outsiders, marginalized people".
Leaders from the conservative opposition said the measure has trivialized drug use. They also warned against 'potential security problems'. In a written statement, they said, "The only acceptable policy remains helping people into ending drug usage."