Let’s reject shooting galleries! (Yes to Drug Consumption Rooms)
Shooting galleries & used syringes discarded in primary schools, public parks, alleyways, staircases, basements, bike sheds, public toilets & abandoned buildings who often show a sign of life: floor covered in detritus, broken glass, syringe caps & wrappers, syringes full of coagulated blood, empty blister packs of various medicines, cans of extra strong beer, food leftovers, greasy food wrappers& fast food containers, card board boxes, dirty blankets... this is what a shooting gallery looks like today. (Photos)
So yes, let’s reject shooting galleries because these conditions & lifestyles are inadmissible & unworthy of a modern society.
Let’s reject those shooting galleries because these are places where health and social risks are increased: HCV and HIV infections, overdoses, health deterioration, anaphylaxis, phlebitis, gangrene, abscesses, septicaemia, endocarditis, pulmonary complications, skin and soft tissue infections, digestive and dental problems, deterioration in mental health, social exclusion, violence, petty crime…
Let’s reject those shooting galleries because the term itself causes a public health and moral debate around stigmatisation of the injecting drug user. A debate that brings on fear, worry and reject which are brought on by personal values, projections, ignorance, a view of a “junkie” automatically dirty, irresponsible, a thief, liar, on the margins of his/hers community… and so stopping any ethical actions founded on a social contract who doesn’t blame drug users. A debate who brings on unworthy thoughts from some politicians who, instead of assuming responsibility in order to improve the health of their citizens, are an obstacle for the care needed to save the lives of dependant individuals living in precariousness.
Let’s reject those shooting galleries because today a solution to improve drug user’s health exists, but also to improve the social peace of a community. Drug Consumption Rooms are more accurately speaking a structure with the possibility of consuming drugs as safely as possible (DCR). This "experimental" intervention, wanted by health and social care professionals are places where physical health and social mediation are made for the most vulnerable users.
Scientific studies show the positive effect of such interventions: reduce transmission of HIV and hepatitis, reduce complications associated with injecting drug use, both physical and financial, to meet the most hard to reach in order to offer them health services like access to substitution treatment, detoxification and social care. Drug Consumption Rooms reduce overdose deaths, public drug taking, needle litter & petty crime. The question, therefore, is not to be for or against drugs but instead to know if we are capable of asking ourselves about our capacity of tolerating drug addicts in our society.
Of course, there will always be a political politician, an organisation hiding its incompetence with the help of the media, a pseudo-scientific national committee, a police officer apposing public health versus public order, a “Christian” with variable compassion, an “honest citizen” without any humanity, a “highly specialized” doctor who has only met a drug addict through ‘Trainspotting’ and even, an “ex-user” who managed to get drug free without any help. All these people will question the scientific studies or will voice their opposition by either trying to make you believe DCR’s will incite drug use and will eventually lead to legalisation of drugs. Those arguments were already voiced, when Needle Exchanges were piloted (then officially recognised in the context of harm reduction). Due to their positive results no-one can question their effectiveness.
So what are they proposing? To change nothing? Leaving residents with this daily nuisance? Zero tolerance for drug users? We know today the failure of this policy. To shun responsibility if an individual dies from overdose at home or on the street? To detoxify drug users? In a context quoted before in regards to obesity & as an example: “we do not fight against a person’s obesity by forbidding them to eat a chocolate bar, but by helping them, supporting them and educating them on healthy eating in order to avoid complications….”
To aim for abstinence and reintegration of drug users is a lengthy affair. In the mean time we might as well do all we can so that drug taking is as least damaging for the individual as well as society, avoiding death from an overdose, contracting HCV and or HIV, avoiding gangrene, abscess or septicaemia…, in reducing public drug use and in reducing anti-social behaviour. Drug Consumption Rooms allow the most vulnerable to access help & support.
So let’s all reject shooting galleries!