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Drugs users

Drugs users

60%

of drug users have hepatitis C

70%

of new cases of hepatitis C are contracted intravenously

Background

A particularly vulnerable group

Drug users, like sex workers, are stigmatised and penalised because of their practices. This puts them at greater risk of infection with AIDS or hepatitis compared to other groups. The aim of Doctors of the World’s approach is to engage with them as closely as possible and use their expertise to implement innovative measures.

Drug users, like sex workers, are stigmatised and penalised because of their practices.

Feeble legislation

Many countries throughout the world have already introduced and demonstrated the effectiveness of low-risk drug consumption rooms. Some have even decriminalised drug use. Yet France remains wary around this issue, constantly delaying the implementation of measures which could reduce the health risks associated with drug use, such as substance analysis, education about risks, consumption rooms and even the use of naloxone by drug users themselves (to prevent fatal overdoses).

The Healthcare Bill, being debated in 2015, will redefine harm reduction policy in France and should make provision for the introduction of such measures.
 

Some countries are decriminalising drug use.

What we do

Doctors of the World has been working with drug users since 1989. During the 1990s our work in this area focused specifically on the festival scene and since 2004 it has been centred on squats, where it encourages discussion of drug use practices, offers testing of substances used and provides equipment of harm reduction (injection kits, inhalation kits, condoms etc.).

 

Education around the risks of injecting

Since 2010, Doctors of the World has operated a mobile facility in the Île-de-France region providing education on the risks of injecting. Injecting drug users can take part in educational sessions focused on health, covering both theory and practice. We give them the opportunity to inject themselves with the substance they usually use in the presence of MdM staff, which leads to a discussion of the risks of their particular practice and contributes to reducing the risks of contamination and infection.

Drug analysis and information

“What’s the quality of the drug I’m taking?” is a question often asked by users. Doctors of the World has developed an innovative tool to provide an answer – substance testing using thin-layer chromatography. This process is identical to that used in HIV testing consultations. An open and non-judgemental discussion of someone’s practices helps to raise their awareness of the risks and how to manage them. Therefore, after providing information about the quality of their drugs, a conversation is initiated with the users on their practices and level of use.

 

What’s the quality of the drug I’m taking? 

 

Saved by naloxone

For tackling fatal overdoses, naloxone, administered directly by drug users or those close to them, offers a solution which is effective, easy to use and which produces few side-effects. We therefore plan to seek to reduce mortality by informing and training drug users in how to use this substance and to make it available to them.

 

Campaigning to open drug consumption rooms

Low-risk drug consumption rooms are places where users, usually those who are extremely vulnerable, can come to take their drugs and, if they wish, receive a course of care. Doctors of the World is campaigning for such rooms to be opened in France.

The experiments which have already been undertaken in this area have shown that these rooms have an impact on drug use in public spaces and the associated problems. The immediate risks of drug use (in particular, overdoses) are also reduced and the health of the users improves.
 

Intervention location

France

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