Although Roma people now compose the majority of the clients of many harm reduction services in many countries from the Baltic to the Balkans, racial justice as an issue is very rarely addressed by the harm reduction community in the region.

“What can parents do if their kid is drug dependent?” This question has been asked of me on various occasions. By reporters on the radio, by politicians at parliamentary committee meetings, and by teachers in schools. I have never felt so incapable and helpless to answer this question as when Roma parents asked me in one of the so called segregated settlements (some call them gypsy ghettos) in rural eastern Hungary. We were sitting in a crowded room full of men and women who previously told us that almost half of the teens in their community use synthetic cannabinoid products, dubbed “spice” in Western Europe and sold as “herbal” or “bio” on the Hungarian black market.

These names are misleading: they contain synthetic substances produced in labs in China and India and imported to Europe in powder form through the global online drug market. This powder is dissolved in acidic liquids and then sprayed onto herbs or tobacco. Unlike the natural plant, synthetic cannabinoids have more intense effects on the user and dependence develops easier and faster even among middle class kids – not to mention marginalised young people.