The lunch break provided me with a chance to talk with some of the days speakers. Oystein Skjaelaaen from Norway, was here to speak about the injecting rooms – yes, there is an injecting room is Norway, and although it has been popular with the clientele, Oystein told me how he felt that it had been something of a missed opportunity. The rules and regulations surrounding the clinic – what people can and cant inject, and when they can access the centre has been putting people off using it, of this he feels quite certain.
The centre is only for illicit heroin use yet a vast amount of the norweign users use pills and heroin together or amphetamines. Thus many people are hiding their pills only to use them outside the centre, and therefore are taking all the risks that the clinic was formed to help avoid. Once again we have centres set up with the age old problem when it comes to drug services – not being fit for the clients they serve, helping an inch, leaving the mile.
Sometimes we find this glaring irony in the drugs field; we often have regulations, protocols and laws to protect, which sometimes even end up doing harm – because we cant see ourselves being that bit more responsive to the reality and needs of the client group. Norway has recently been discussing heroin presribing, but Oystein tells me, it has so far been a leap to far to think of giving pharmaceutical quality heroin on script despite allowing injecting rooms where it is more acceptable to see drug users injecting blackmarket, illegal, dubious quality powder into their veins. It’s a crazy world we live in theres no doubt about it. The fact is we need a range of interventions, and we need to get our collective heads out of the sand now!
And the Unions Award Goes To…..
The Swedish Drug Users Union annual award for those who have been the greatest supporters of the Unions cause went to 4 women this year, Alice Aström, Elina Linna, Eva Olofsson, Lena Olsson. The Brukar Vans Prise was awarded to them because of their political fight to decriminalise drug use. Members of The Left Party here in Sweden, they have clearly showed a lot of courage raising this issue in the Swedish climate today. “We are not saying legalise drugs, but we do want to decrimalise the use of drugs, so it is not a criminal offense for the person who has a drug problem to be caught with drugs for their personal use.” After talking with the women for a short time I was impressed with their ability to see right into the heart of the issue. Interestingly I discovered later that Alice who is the vice chairman of the party, is a former heroin user herself and this has clearly brought a particular insight into the formation of the party’s policies and they should be a good ally for the Union.