World’s largest drug consumption facility opens in Denmark

17 August 2016
H17 drug consumption room, Copenhagen

The world’s largest drug consumption facility has opened in Copenhagen, Denmark, giving people who use drugs a safe place to use illicit substances in a way that will limit harm to themselves, and to those around them. Importantly, the facility will allow the consumption of ‘hard drugs’ – illicit substances apart from cannabis – without the worry of legal action.

Drug consumption rooms, also known as safer injecting facilities, are a type of harm reduction programme whereby drug users can smoke or inject drugs under medical supervision. At the same time, these facilities are a way to link high-risk drug users with psychosocial advice and support, health services, and rehabilitation programmes.

Trained staff give people who use drugs information and education on ways to use drugs safely to reduce the chance of overdosing. They can also access clean injecting equipment to decrease the likelihood of transmission of blood-borne illnesses such as HIV and hepatitis. Drug consumption rooms often provide other health services, such as testing for HIV, hepatitis and other sexually transmitted infections, as well as referrals.

The new facility, called H17, is Denmark’s sixth drug consumption facility – but it is the first run by a municipality, rather than an NGO. Louise Runge Mortensen, Director of H17, told TalkingDrugs: “Our primary focus is harm reduction and providing a safe and clean environment for our guests, the nurses help with teaching correct injection techniques, cleaning wounds, […] screening for HIV and hepatitis, and, of course, treating overdoses.”

The drug consumption facility will allow 12 people who inject drugs and 12 people who smoke drugs to use the facility at any given time. However currently, there is only sufficient funding for six people to use the rooms at a time.

The use of public funds for the facility has not been without controversy, but Jesper Christensen, Copenhagen's Deputy Mayor for Social Issues said: "I don't think we have any other options. If we aim to give these people a life of dignity and a chance to move on, this is the best bet we have right now."

While the primary objective of drug consumption facilities is to reduce the mortality and morbidity of people who use drugs, they also provide an opportunity to reduce incidence of public drug use, as well getting discarded drug paraphernalia off the streets.

Photo credit:
©Gadejuristen - The Street Lawyers

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