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Iceland Expected to Introduce Drug Consumption Rooms

Drug consumption rooms (DCRs) are expected to be introduced in Iceland, as MPs and the Minister of Health have backed calls for an amendment to the national drug law.

Svandís Svavarsdóttir, the health minister, told Parliament on March 21 that her government would like to amend existing drug legislation so that DCRs could legally open and operate in the country.

A DCR in Iceland, she said, would be a “legally protected environment where eighteen-year-olds and older can consume [illegal drugs] under the supervision of healthcare professionals. Where care is taken to ensure full hygiene, safety, and infection control.”

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 European countries operating DCRs, there has never been a fatal overdose within a facility.

DCRs also provide sterile equipment and safer environments for drug use, thereby reducing the spread of blood-borne diseases for service users, as well as reducing antisocial behaviour associated with public drug use – including the discarding of drug litter, and public intoxication.

The proposed amendment has been backed by the Red Cross, who have warned that more people now die from drug overdoses than car accidents in Iceland. In 2018, there were 17 drug-related deaths in the country which has a population of just 330,000.

"There is increased homelessness, which means that people are injecting themselves in very bad conditions”, noted Þórir Guðmundsson, director of the Red Cross in Reykjavík. “There is a great need for [people] to be able to get into warm housing where there are healthcare professionals."

The amendment is widely expected to pass, having garnered unanimous support among MPs during a recent parliamentary debate. Svavarsdóttir has pre-emptively pledged to provide ISK 50 million (US$407,000) in public funds to support the creation of a DCR, once the amendment passes.

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