Supervised Injection Facilities to Open Across France

By Zachary Siegel 04/23/15

After some heated debate, public health trumped conservative ideology.

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Injection drug users in France now have a place to consume drugs under the supervision of health professionals. The safe injection sites will be established in Paris, Bordeaux, and Strasbourg, where researchers will test their efficacy over the coming years.

After a four-hour spirited debate, The National Assembly adopted a draft of the law that allows safer drug consumption rooms. The more conservative Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party opposed the new injection site saying that it is not a “first step towards legalization of drugs” and sends “incomprehensible messages towards the youth.”

Marisol Touraine, the Minister of Health behind the bill, responded to conservative critics by saying, “Our position is not a moral position but a pragmatic and realistic position.” Furthermore, Touraine elaborated on the goals of the injection sites, where he said it "is not to trivialize or to facilitate drug use but to take into account the situations that exist, whether we support them or not, whether they can be seen or not.”

The bill also states that as long as the amount of drugs an individual is carrying in the safe injection spaces is for personal use, users will not be prosecuted for using or possession. And to reduce risk of overdose and the spread of disease, a multidisciplinary team of health professionals will be working at the centers.

A 2014 Global Drug Survey found that adopting safer drug using practices has the ability to save lives, reduce emergency medical services, and promote both safe and hygienic drug use. Cities like Vancouver and Australia, where safe injection sites already exist, have seen reductions in HIV/AIDS, fatal overdoses, and less public nuisance, like dirty needles in parks and on streets.

Professor at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Dr. Chris Beyrer, was invited to visit Insite, a safe injection room currently operating in Vancouver. He wrote in a commentary, “Supervised injection facilities clearly have an important part to play in communities affected by injection drug use. They should be expanded to other affected sites ... on the basis of the life-saving effects."

Currently, there are no supervised, safe-injection sites in the United States.

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Zachary Siegel is a freelance journalist specializing in science, health and drug policy. His reporting has also appeared in Slate, The Daily Beast, Salon, Huffington Post, among others. He writes often about addiction, sometimes drawing from his own experience. You can find out more about Zachary on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.