Recently The Guardian reported on a surprisingly not unprecedented phenomenon of cities offering to their populations ‘drug consumption rooms.’ Opened already in countries such as Switzerland and Germany, these rooms grant members of the public access to a space in which to consume drugs, the only stipulation being that they must provide the contraband themselves.
The practice is being considered for sanction by authorities in Brighton, a city taxed with one of the highest number of drug-related deaths in the U.K. and where public health officials hope to open a ‘drug consumption room’ soon. Officials argue that by supervising drug use, they are preventing substance-related deaths; it is an idea fuelled by the conceit that a drug policy that prohibits substance abuse is ineffective against preventing drug-related deaths.
“Our primary concern is the health of the people to make sure they don’t kill themselves,” Rob Jarrett, chair of Brighton’s health and wellbeing board, told the Guardian.
“I think from our perspective we see the health benefits of accepting drug use is going to happen and it might as well be happening in a place that can be monitored,” he said.
But what will be achieved if we manage to lower the number of drug-related deaths but continue to foster a community of alcoholism and drug addiction? This is not an instance of a problem solved but a problem avoided.
Perhaps the most troubling part of this news is the potential fact that funds are being siphoned away from drug rehab programmes. These programmes that not only make sure drug abusers live, but that they are given the opportunity to become healthy and productive members of society. The money instead is being channelled into a programme that feeds an addiction.
Certainly drug addiction treatment requires more funding, more facilities and more staff than ‘drug consumption rooms,’ but the rewards are much greater. Drug rehab programmes demonstrate a respect for the sanctity of a life lead productively and healthfully, rather than a city interested only in getting users off the street and into a room.