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Greece Opens First Drug Consumption Center

The country tries to combat a rising demand for drugs amidst ongoing recession, high unemployment, and lack of access to healthcare.

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Outbreak in HIV largest among drug users
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By McCarton Ackerman

11/29/13

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Greece has joined an ongoing trend worldwide by setting up its first legal drug consumption center in the city of Athens. Greece’s Organization Against Drugs, known as OKANA, set up the center last month, which allows users to inject their own drugs they bring themselves while under medical supervision. More than 200 addicts have visited the facility since it opened shop last month.

Sakis Papaconstantinou, the head of OKANA, said that “demand is increasing day after day and we believe that very soon we may need more facilities in other parts of the city.” But the 200 addicts who have accessed the center represent less than one percent of the estimated 25,000 drug users in Athens who are homeless and without access to healthcare services. In addition, OKANA statistics show that the number of HIV-infected drug users peaked at the height of the economic crisis last year, while fatal drug overdoses have also increased from previous years.

The drug issue throughout Greece has been exacerbated by the country’s ongoing recession, which has seen unemployment skyrocket to 27 percent. In exchange for funds that are helping Greece stay afloat, the country has agreed to reduce health spending as part of austerity measures prescribed by international lenders.

Meanwhile, more than 90 drug consumption rooms have been set up throughout the world since 1986 and eight nations currently help facilitate them: Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Luxembourg, Norway, Canada, and Australia.

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