We Need Room for Change!

Drugreporter, in cooperation with six other NGOs, proudly presents the new international campaign Room for Change—because we need to change the way we respond to urban drug problems.

We Need Room for Change!

Injecting drug use has become a growing problem in most of our cities—especially in those neighborhoods where large numbers of young people live in poverty. The more people inject in unsafe environments, the more people share their needles, and this leads to more infections, overdose deaths, drug litter and nuisance on the streets.

The solution does not lie in the hands of the police—arresting people who use drugs does not reduce the number of drug users, but instead pushes them to use in a more risky way, and to discard their needles as soon as possible. The old ways of fighting drug problems don’t work.

From the examples of cities like Zurich, Vancouver or Copenhagen, we can learn a lot about what works in reducing street drug use and related problems. Decision makers should adopt comprehensive drug strategies based on four pillars: prevention, treatment, harm reduction and smart law enforcement.

PREVENTION: We need honest drug education in schools, as well as prevention programs targeting young people at dance parties and festivals!

TREATMENT: People who seek treatment for drug dependence need institutions for treatment and social rehabilitation, as well as aftercare centers to help them with education and jobs!

HARM REDUCTION: For those people who do not want or cannot stop drug use, we need to create drug consumption rooms where they can inject their drugs with sterile equipment, supervised by health staff, to avoid infections, overdose deaths and drug litter!

LAW ENFORCEMENT: Instead of arresting and detaining injecting drug users, police should move them from the streets to harm reduction centers!

We ask decision makers

  • to adopt urban drug strategies based on the four pillars described above;
  • to involve civil society in developing/implementing this strategy;
  • to create an urban drug coordination system to implement the strategy and ensure cooperation between these pillars;
  • to provide adequate resources to improve and extend services!

In 1987, the United Nations decided to observe June 26 as the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Trafficking. For many years, this day was celebrated by some governments with anti-drug rituals, such as public burnings of seized drugs or televised executions of drug mules. In the last 10 years, however, June 26 has been turned into an day of action by civil society to promote drug policies based on human rights and public health.

We need a new approach

This year, in cooperation with Support. Don’t Punish, we launch a campaign in eight European cities—Athens, Belgrade, Bratislava, Bucharest, Budapest, Porto, Sofia and Warsaw—to educate and mobilize the public to support innovative alternatives, such as drug consumption rooms, to punitive drug policies.

The Room for Change campaign targets those people whose lives are affected by street drug use, either because they have a relative who uses drugs or because they live in a neighborhood where many people inject drugs. In each of the eight cities, there are huge problems related to injecting drug use: HIV and hepatitis infections, overdose deaths, drug litter and nuisance.

Our campaign website provides you with multimedia content from each city about the current situation and local challenges. To reduce these harms, we must take a new approach. Instead of criminalizing drug users and pushing them to the margins of society, we need programs that distribute sterile equipment and information, as well as create a safe and hygienic environment where people can use their drugs without harming themselves and without disturbing the public.

Drug consumption rooms

We have learned from the experiences of cities like Zurich, Vancouver and Copenhagen that drug consumption rooms (DCRs) can serve as entry points to the treatment system. As such, DCRs are not a solution in itself: they work only if they are part of an integrated urban drug strategy.

This drug strategy should be built on four pillars: prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and smart law enforcement. If cities create a drug coordination system and provide adequate budget to implement the "Four Pillars Drug Strategy," we can significantly reduce drug problems. In our petition, to be sent to the decision makers of these eight cities, we urge them to do so.

We ask you to sign our online petition, to invite your friends to sign it, and to share our campaign website on Facebook and Twitter!