Denmark's "Street Lawyers" Help the Addicted Reduce Harm

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This new video by the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union highlights the Danish group Gadejuristen -- "Street Lawyers" -- a 10-year old Copenhagen based organization that advocates for the human rights of drug users in Denmark and which has played an important role in the promotion of innovative harm reduction programs. Earlier this year, the Danish government commenced heroin maintenance programs for addicts. But according to HCLU, Denmark still has no safe injection sites, and the many users who therefore take heroin on the streets can face police harassment. A particular problem is that "no-go-zones" designated by local police can make it difficult for users to get to their needle exchange programs.
Location: 
Copenhagen
Denmark
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Weird contradictions

[email protected],Vancouver,B.C.Canada I have been an addict,a user of opiate drugs for almost 40 years.I live,as you can see,in Vancouver where that clean safe injection room is located.We had a program here,NAOMI,that was supposed to be the first heroin maintenance program in North America.People from all over the world tried to gain admittance.If you tried and failed,don't feel bad.I have advocated for such a program since 1974 and I didn't qualify for the stage one of the program.Stephen Harper's election ended NAOMI.Now we see the Danes,with a heroin maintenance program that is also not serving a significant majority of the addict population and those that don't qualify are forced to live like we always have.I have spent 12 years of my life in federal or Provincial custody for a variety of drug offences.When I first started using heroin I accepted all the BS that went with it.Beatings,doors being kicked in on a regular basis,in and out of prison but mostly I just felt less than human.The idea that heroin use was a disease never entered my head until I was doing time in the B.C.Penitentiary and was tiered up with the members of the drug study group.What was being advocated then was exactly what is being offered now in several European countries.The members of the DSG were composed of several former members that had gone to England for their heroin maintenance trials.Unfortunately,the British had as the prime motivator of their program the eventual withdrawal of clients from heroin,something that was a spectacular failure.That is why it is such a puzzle to me that we now have a program in Vancouver that is trying to withdraw people from heroin using heroin.There is ample evidence that this does not work.That is one of the puzzles of the drug war to those of us that have watched the progress and missteps along the path away from prohibition.It seems that even those that are trying to find solutions are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.I often get the impression that some of even the well meaning proponents of reform are too interested in what they can get out of the research and too indifferent as to the direction that research takes.I have been out of the street scene for almost 10 years,not because I have seen the light but because I am on heavy doses of fentnyl and morphine for a spinal disease that took away 4 vertebrae and is unbelievably painful.I would dump it all in a minute if I could get on a heroin maintenance program.Even in my current medical condition I cannot work with my doctor to find a drug combination that works for both my addiction and my pain.As a result I am suspected of ulterior motives when I complain that a long acting drug like fentnyl is not what works best for my condition.Why does the system fight so hard to prevent someone with my condition,which includes addiction,from their drug of choice?The reasons lie somewhere between a country with a maintenance program that can't come to terms with it's street addicts and another city with a safe injection site that serves at best 10% of it's users.When I first started using there was a new program that was supposed to be a huge help to addicted people.It was methadone and I curse the day I ever used it for anything but a quick withdrawal from heroin.Users that have been desperate enough to sign up when they had no desire to quit know what I mean.Make no mistake,I am no proponent of legal heroin,even though all the evidence shows that even if it was handed out free on street corners only around 1% of the population would use the drug.I do believe that it is singularly dangerous in that for a certain portion of the public it is addictive to where only early treatment of an extensive degree can possibly cure someone and the danger of relapse even after as much as 25 years is always there.This means that a person must,like an alcoholic,be in a program for life or go as far out into the sticks as one can go and never contact anyone you knew ever again.I know a couple of people that have had success with this but they are the extreme minority.This is why many European countries have heroin maintenance but have turned down marijuana reform.It may seem foolish considering the benign effects of marijuana.I think the point is that heroin,unlike other drugs,can't be cured with 90 days in rehab and a medal that says you're two months clean.After four years in federal prison I had two things on my mind upon release.The hooker came second.

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