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!