Drug consumption rooms have been established in several countries, where confirmed drug users are allowed to consume their drugs in hygienic conditions and without fear of arrest. These facilities, which mostly operate in big cities, emerged because of serious health and public order problems associated with drug use, especially drug injecting in public places. In 2004, there were about 60 consumption rooms in 36 European cities and two pilot projects of medically supervised injecting centres in Australia and Canada.
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Aim of the project
In 2002/3, the EMCDDA carried out a review of studies on supervised drug consumption rooms, analysing their historical background, operational frameworks and outcomes, the results of which were published in a report in February 2004. This review forms part of the work of the EMCDDA in monitoring drug use related health consequences and deaths as well as the existing efforts to reduce those, guided by the European Union Drugs Strategy.
The establishment of drug consumption rooms has produced controversy and has led to disagreement between the International Drug Control Board and some UN member States on the one hand and other member States on the other hand about the interpretation of the international drug conventions of 1961, 1972 and 1988, in particular in relation to the basic provision of the conventions obliging States to limit the use of narcotic drugs strictly to medical and scientific purposes. The report does not address this debate, nor does it offer comment on the role of consumption rooms in respect of the international drug control treaties.
The European report on drug consumption rooms (Executive summary - 66.5 KB, Word) describes what consumption rooms are and why and how they came about; whom they target, which specific objectives they have and how they function. It summarises available evidence on the expected benefits and risks of such facilities. Expected benefits are decreases among the target population in high risk drug use, morbidity and mortality, increased uptake of health and social care including drug treatment, and reductions in public drug use and neighbourhood nuisance.
Possible risks include concern that they encourage increased drug use and that new users might be initiated, that they make drug use more acceptable and comfortable, thus conflicting with treatment goals, and that they increase public order problems by attracting drug users and drug dealers from other areas.
Because consumption rooms target in particular those who are not yet ready to engage in a treatment process, a major function is to offer other survival-oriented services, including basic medical care, food, drinks, clothes and shelter. Their rationale is that drug users should, as long as they cannot or do not want to stop drug use, be enabled to survive in the hope that they may at some later stage be able to give up drug use.