The Greek Parliament has overwhelmingly endorsed the opening of drug consumption rooms (DCRs) – facilities that save lives and reduce drug-related harms.
The legislation, which was backed by the health ministry, passed through parliament with 229 votes in favour and only 32 opposed on March 7. The ministry of health can now license specific sites around the country to operate as DCRs – facilities where people can use illegal drugs in a safe, sterile environment, and without fear of prosecution.
Greek newspaper, I Kathimerini, reports that “to use the sites, [people] will have to register with the users register” before being allowed to enter. The new law states that drug possession will not be criminalised within the vicinity of the facilities, but only for people on this register.
Psychiatric hospitals in Greece’s two largest cities – Athens and Thessaloniki – have already been identified among the first homes of the country’s planned DCRs.
DCRs prevent deadly overdoses from taking place, as healthcare professionals oversee people’s drug use and are therefore able to administer naloxone – a medication that reverses opioid overdoses – when necessary. Among the nine other European countries operating DCRs, there has never been a fatal overdose within a facility.
As TalkingDrugs has previously reported, Greece currently has one of the EU’s highest rates of newly-diagnosed HIV cases attributed to injecting drug use. DCRs mitigate this harm by providing people with sterile equipment, minimising risk of disease transmission – including that of HIV and Hepatitis C – from needle-sharing.
Contrary to critics’ arguments that DCRs facilitate problematic drug use, such facilities provide marginalised people – particularly the homeless – with an opportunity to access treatment and basic healthcare. For many people who use DCRs, entering the facility may be the only time they engage with medical professionals or addiction specialists.
DCRs also provide a wide range of benefits to people who do not use drugs, but who live or work in the vicinity of such a facility. DCRs reduce potentially-hazardous drug litter, improve the public’s access to emergency services, can reduce crime in general, and help integrate marginalised people into the legitimate economy – providing financial benefits for all of society.
Drug consumption rooms operate legally in the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Spain, Norway, France, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Canada, Australia, and Belgium.