France opens drug ‘shooting gallery’

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A Paris  hospital is now housing France‘s first ‘shooting gallery’ – a safe place where drug addicts can inject under medical supervision, reports, BBC News.

The controversial drug room was opened by Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo and Health Minister Marisol Touraine near the Gare du Nord, a busy station where drug crime is common. The users will exchange hard drugs like heroin and crack for substitutes, along with sterile injection kits.

According to the report, Touraine said France had become the tenth country to set up drug rooms, which Switzerland pioneered in 1986. There are plans to open two more – in Strasbourg, eastern France, and Bordeaux in the south-west. “This is a very important moment in the battle against the blight of addiction,” Touraine said.

The report says one of the chief arguments for such places is that they put addicts – often poor, marginalised and sick – in touch with medics and social workers, who can help them. Consuming substitute drugs in a clean environment also reduces the risk that addicts face from contaminated hard drugs bought from criminal dealers.

According to French health ministry data from 2011, more than 10% of drug abusers in France have HIV/Aids and more than 40% are infected with hepatitis C. Dirty needles and unprotected sex are the main routes for virus transmission.

Drug rooms exist officially in several European countries, including Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and Spain, as well as in Canada and Australia, the report says.

Full BBC News report

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