Interview with Rūta Marcinkevičė, Project Manager at “Young Wave” / EHRA
“Young Wave” is a non-governmental organization, established by young people who use drugs and who are affected by harmful drug policies in Lithuania, to embrace each other and be a respectable and constructive part of drug policy formation. Mission of the organization is to create society where people using psychoactive substances have universal access to health and social services without a fear of being stigmatized or discriminated against.
Could you please share, how drug checking started in Lithuania and how you are implementing it?
It all started with a strong desire to create a better society. Harsh drug policies haven’t just failed to reduce the availability and use of drugs; however, they have created a whole set of problems. So, few young Lithuanians were actively involved in international drug policy issues. They were members of various international organizations, traveled worldwide, and saw inspiring harm reduction practices in other countries. One day, in 2017, they decided to unite and create the “Young Wave.” So now it’s the third year we are promoting humane drug policy and providing harm reduction services. Drug checking became a natural part of our services.
What was the reason that you started to implement drug checking as part of your harm reduction services?
As I’ve already mentioned, this was quite a natural decision that was based on evidence and the acceptable practices in providing drug checking in other countries. It’s vital to say that drug checking gives us a unique opportunity to reach a group of primarily young people who do not come to us otherwise. We seek to enhance their experience by providing information and sup¬port, which helps them stay safe and make safer and healthier choices. Moreover, drug checking is often the first point of contact with the social support system for many users.