France's First Supervised Injection Site Opens To Public This Week

By McCarton Ackerman 10/12/16
About 100 people are expected to utilize the safe injection room each day.
France's First Supervised Injection Site Opens To Public This Week
Photo: via YouTube

After years of debate, France has opened the country’s first supervised injection facility in the city of Paris.

The new facility, adjoining Gare du Nord train station, was inaugurated on Tuesday and will be accessible to the public on Friday, with 100 users expected to utilize the new room daily.

Deutsche Welle reported that the site will supply addicts with clean syringes and allow them to inject under the watch of trained medical staff. Those who access the facility will not be prosecuted for possession or use, as long as the amount they bring inside is for personal use.

Marisol Touraine, France’s Health Minister, said intravenous drug use amounts to a public health emergency in the country. She cited data that up to one in four French drug users is infected with hepatitis C, and up to one in 10 is infected with HIV.

"It's also a strong political response, for a pragmatic and responsible policy that brings high-risk people back towards the health system rather than stigmatizing them," said Touraine. The supervised injection site is part of a plan adopted in April 2015 by the French National Assembly. Similar venues will also open in Bordeaux and Strasbourg, according to Deutsche Welle. Researchers will spend the next several years testing the efficacy of these rooms.

There was some expected protest to building the facilities in France, with the conservative Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party arguing that it was a first step towards full legalization of all drugs in the country. But Touraine opposed this and said the injection sites are “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.”

Although marijuana remains the most popular illicit substance in France, intravenous drug use remains an issue. A recent report by an interministerial committee on anti-drugs policy estimated there to be 500,000 heroin users throughout the country.

The world’s first supervised injection site opened in 1986 in Berne, Switzerland. The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction noted that more than 90 similar sites have been built worldwide since then.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.