DCRs Expert Interview Series
1. What is your opinion on drug consumption rooms?
"Drug consumption rooms are a very efficient harm reduction intervention, and a necessary tool in environments where there are harmful patterns of use (drug injection, open drug scenes, high level of infections of HIV and other blood-borne diseases among people who use drugs, etc.). From a government point of view, they are also a very cost-effective tool since they eventually reduce health and social harms that can be related to drug use. There is no evidence that levels of use or of drug related crime have increased in the areas around drug consumption rooms."
2. Do you think that drug consumption rooms are helpful for drug users? (Please detail…)
"Drug consumption rooms provide a safe and non-judgemental space where people who use drugs can come both to use drugs in a secure environment (both in terms of health, but also in terms of stigma, etc.), but also to socialize with members of the staff and other users. It is a way to reach out to those users who have very harmful patterns of drug use and are marginalized from the rest of society. In such an environment, they can discuss freely about their drug use and any problem they encounter in their lives without fear of being stigmatized or discriminated against. It is also a mechanism for them to access other harm reduction services (such as condoms, clean needles, etc.), as well as treatment for those who would like to treat their drug dependence."
3. Please specify what problems could be solved by drug consumption rooms.
"Many problems can be solved by drug consumption rooms. The first one is an improvement of the health of people who use drugs, for the reasons stated above – access to harm reduction, access to advice on safer use/injection, access to drug dependence treatment, re-socialisation of marginalized people, reduced risks of overdose deaths due to quick interventions by staff from the drug consumption rooms, reduced risks of hep C and HIV infections. The second one is a security one – drug consumption rooms avoid open drug scenes, and therefore harms that could be caused to other people from discarded needles in the street for example. In some locations, drug consumption rooms were also associated with lower levels of drug-related crime."
4. In which area of the city do you think should be located such a place?
"It is very important that drug consumption rooms be located where people who use drugs are themselves located, and this will depend a lot from city to city. This is to ensure that people who use drugs have easy access to the room."
5. What perception would the community have on a drug consumption room in their area of living?
"Many communities feel reluctant to have a drug consumption room be established close to their residential areas. The “NIMB” expression (“Not In My Backyard”) reflects this idea very well. However, it is very interesting to see that, in areas where drug consumption rooms were indeed established, communities (and the police!) are very positive about the intervention, and very supportive. In some areas, the local authorities have established a 24h call-in system where people can report any disturbance in the neighbourhood, in order to ensure that the community feels safe and comfortable with the initiative."
6. Who should support the costs to open a drug consumption room?
"Ideally, it should come from national or local government budgets to ensure sustainability. However, in practice, many drug consumption rooms are funded by NGOs and private funds."
7. From your experience, what were the obstacles in developing such a service.
"Many of the obstacles relate to ideological and moral issues, both coming from government officials and from the general public. The initiative should be accompanied by a solid sensitization campaign to ensure that communities are aware of the benefits of the intervention for their neighbourhood. Pilot projects are quite useful in this regard (as long as they are not prolonged as such over and over again…) to show the advantages of such an approach towards drug use."
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