By Agnieszka Sieniawska
Around the world, the discussion surrounding the need to broaden access to harm-reduction programs is reaching ever greater numbers of people. In Western countries, this approach is a priority in dealing with drug use. Flagship harm-reduction programs, such as needle and syringe exchanges, substitution therapy, and safe injection rooms, are used in the majority of European countries, in order to prevent transmission of blood-borne diseases, improve the health of people living with addiction to psychoactive substance, increase safety in cities, and reduce related criminal behavior.
Watch the Polish Drug Policy Network & Drugreporters joint video on the Polish situation:
The experience of those countries, linked to public demand for safer streets, and a growing number of people seeking treatment, is what made them pursue harm reduction, including the reduction of crime associated with drug-use. The best example is the Swiss model, where a pilot program introduced medicinal heroin treatment for people with opiate addiction. Just a few years later, a significant improvement in the health of the patients was evident; criminal behavior by addicts plunged (from 90 percent to 10 percent), while the operation of the clinics cost the state significantly less than the costs related to treatment with ineffective methods, or isolation of heroin users in prisons.
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