Drug Consumption Room to Open in Lisbon, Portugal

By Zachary Siegel 02/19/16

The first room will be opened in Alta de Lisboa, in the parish of Lumiar. 

Drug Consumption Room to Open in Lisbon, Portugal
Photo via Shutterstock

In Lisbon, Portugal, the Municipal Assembly has approved a proposal to implement a plan to open drug consumption rooms, otherwise known as supervised injection facilities, "in the shortest time" possible. The proposal was presented by the Left Bloc (BE) party, which believes that this approach is "an imperative necessity."

The mayor of PS said that in the neighborhood of Red Cross, in Lumiar, residents are often confronted with people using drugs in their buildings. "It is a dramatic reality," said Pedro Delgado Alves, President of the Lumiar Parish Council. 

On behalf of the BE party, James Ivo Cruz emphasized that this public health measure "is unanimously embraced by professionals," and has already been introduced in more than 60 cities across eight countries worldwide. Numerous peer-reviewed articles demonstrate the efficacy of drug consumption rooms (DCRs). In Lisbon, aside from keeping people safe, DCRs aim to reduce public disorder, public injecting, and increase public safety. 

Officials said winning the support of neighboring communities is essential. "We have to win over the community to support the cause," said Alves, who noted that in this case such support has been already achieved.

A 2014 systematic review of these facilities concluded: “All studies converged to find that SIFs were efficacious in attracting the most marginalized people who inject drugs, promoting safer injection conditions, enhancing access to primary health care, and reducing the overdose frequency. SIFs were not found to increase drug injecting, drug trafficking or crime in the surrounding environments. SIFs were found to be associated with reduced levels of public drug injections and dropped syringes.”

There over 100 of these spaces in operation worldwide. A 2011 paper published in The Lancet found fatal overdoses within 500 meters of Insite, a SIF located in Vancouver, decreased by 35% after the facility opened. These facilities reduce rates of HIV and hepatitis C risk behavior (e.g., syringe sharing, unsafe sex). Because there are trained medical staff overseeing its operation, no one has ever died in a drug consumption room,

In America, there are no safe spaces that care for injection drug users. There are currently campaigns in Seattle and New York to open these facilities, in an attempt to tackle the nation’s tragic opiate crisis. Dr. Caleb Banta-Green, a drug-abuse researcher at the University of Washington, argues SIFs in America are a much needed public-health measure. 

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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.