Interesting Approach to Fight Negative Effect of Drugs: Give Users Places to Use

Denmark has taken a strange (and rather logical) path in the battle against illegal narcotics by creating “fixing rooms” where drug users are allowed to bring their drugs and use them in a controlled, safe, and sanitary environment.  The effects on the drug users and society as a whole are noteworthy:

Crucially, while nurses in the room have dealt with 36 overdoses in the last seven months, not one has been fatal – as is the pattern in the other drug-consumption rooms around the world.

Up to 10,000 syringes used to be picked up off the streets of Vesterbro every week before the room opened…Since the launch of the room, the quantity of drug paraphernalia collected…in the area has halved.

Burglaries in the wider area are down by about 3%, theft from vehicles and violence down about 5%, and possession of weapons also down.

What are we willing to do to take these off the streets?

Obviously, this is a new initiative and the effects will take some time to see just how much of a positive influence it will have on society.  But the evidence to this point seems very good and it’s reasonable as to why this is working so well.  A greater intermingling of treatment and rehabilitation would be ideal but this is a good starting place to experiment.

Make no mistake, however.  This is, to some extent, masking a problem.  But we must ask is the masking worth it because of its impact on the residual effects of drug usage?  It is worth it for cleaner streets?  Is it worth it for lower crime?  And, a very important question that will take some time to answer, what is the effect on addiction rates?

It could certainly be argued it may drop addiction rates in the long-run in the same way restricting advertising of tobacco has dropped smoking addiction in the United States.  Taking the paraphernalia off the streets and hiding the usage away lessens its exposure to the next generation, therein, having the potential for a similar effect to taking tobacco adds off of television.  Still needs plenty of study but it’s certainly possible.

The likelihood of a program like this being broadly used across the U.S. is very slim at this time but it will be something worth watching in the years to come.  If the effect is as good or even better than what has been shown to this point, maybe America will take a closer look at seemingly radical programs like this down the road to address drug addiction.

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