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Drug ‘shooting galleries’ to be tested by France

Text by Joseph BAMAT

Latest update : 2012-10-22

France’s health minister, Marisol Touraine (pictured), has said trial centres where drug addicts can safely inject their own drugs could open before the end of the year in a handful of French cities.

Legalised “shooting galleries” where addicts can inject heroin and other drugs with sterile needles provided by medical professionals could soon open in France, Health Minister Marisol Touraine has said.

“I hope that experimental trials will be announced before the end of the year,” Touraine told French BFM television on Sunday, adding that a handful of cities were ready to test the new program.

“I am reviewing the conditions under which this can be implemented,” she added, saying that the issue of providing safe premises for drug addicts should not be exploited by rivalling political groups.

But France’s conservative opposition UMP party has said it was against such a test run.

“Opening consumption rooms does not help fight against the scourge of drugs, but rather trivializes drug use and legalises the use of the hardest drugs at the taxpayer’s expense,” the party’s national secretary, Camille Bedin, said in a statement to the press.

Last August, Socialist MP Jean-Marie Le Guen, who is also a deputy mayor of Paris, called on the government to give the green light to so-called shooting galleries as a response to the “worrying” increase of heroine use in the French capital.

"I would prefer that these destitute drug abusers inject themselves in specialised rooms, rather than in the street or apartment building stairwells, as is the case today. And that they are surrounded by medical professionals,” Guen told Le Parisien daily this summer.

French public divided

French people are deeply divided over shooting galleries. According to an opinion survey by French polling agency Ifop in September, 55 percent of those questioned said they were against them, while 45 percent said they were in favour.

A similar poll by Ifop in August 2010 showed that 53 percent of people supported testing drug consumption rooms in France and 47 percent were against, suggesting that support for such an initiative is fading.

French President François Hollande said during his successful election campaign that he would oversee the opening of France’s first shooting galleries. The French NGO Doctors of the world, as well as other organizations, have since called on Hollande to make good on his pledge.

Shooting galleries exist in a handful of European countries, including French neighbours Switzerland and Germany.

According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), studies about the effectiveness of drug consumption rooms are limited but generally point to positive outcomes: increased health care access and treatment for drug users and reduced public drug use.

A study of a three-year heroin shooting galleries trial conducted in the UK from 2006 to 2009 said the program resulted in less crime and street dealing.

Date created : 2012-10-22


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