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France’s First Drug Consumption Room Inaugurated in Paris

France’s first ever drug consumption room (DCR) is set to open in Paris this month, beginning the rollout of similar harm reduction sites in other cities across the country over the coming months.

Set in the Lariboisière Hospital in northeast Paris – an area that has reportedly witnessed high levels of problematic drug use – the DCR was inaugurated on October 11 and is due to officially open its doors on October 17.

The facility contains 12 spaces for people to use drugs intravenously, and an inhalation room for those who smoke. Operated by the Gaia Association, it will be open seven days a week from 1:30 pm to 8:30 pm and is designed to receive 300-400 visits per day.

Some 20 people will be employed in the DCR, among them doctors, nurses, social workers and security guards. Though the site is located in a hospital, it has an entirely separate entrance and people can attend anonymously.

Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, inaugurating France's first drug consumption room (Source: Charlotte Mévil-blanche).

DCRs are professional healthcare facilities that provide people who use illicit drugs a safe space to inject and/or smoke (some centres are only equipped to accommodate those who use intravenously). DCRs are well evidenced in preventing the spread of infectious diseases and combating the risk of overdose fatalities. In the three decades since the first facility opened in Switzerland – there are currently over 90 worldwide – there has not been an overdose death recorded at one of these sites.

Harm reduction advocates have been pushing for a DCR in Paris for over a decade, though had to wait until April last year to be given the green light when France’s National Assembly voted in favour of legislation allowing the creation of DCRs. The legislation permits Paris and at least two other cities to open DCRs for a six-year pilot period.

Strasbourg is reportedly set to follow Paris next month in opening a site, with Bordeaux also lined up to run a pilot program in the future.

In spite of the efficacy of DCRs in addressing the health needs of an extremely marginalized groups, numerous mayors across France have refused to implement these harm reduction initiatives in their cities. As TalkingDrugs reported last year, Marseille and Nice were key among these. 

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