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Ireland to Set Up Centers for Heroin Users to Practice Safe Drug Use

Update Date: Nov 03, 2015 11:43 AM EST

Ireland will become the next European country to help drug addicts use heroin safely.

The nations' drug minister announced Monday that the country will be creating centers with supervised rooms where heroin users can inject themselves using safer methods. The centers, which are a part of the nation's plan to tackle substance abuse, will be "medically supervised."

"It will effectively mean a diplomatic immunity to inject heroin in a safe, secure, passionate environment," Aodhan O Riordain, the minister behind the new approach designed to reduce the risks associated with drug abuse, explained to the AFP (via Yahoo! News). "It will limit the dangers of contracting HIV and Hepatitis C and also takes away the street injecting phenomenon."

The very first center is planned for next year in Dublin. If all goes as envisioned, addicts will be allowed to visit the center without getting into any legal troubles. They would have to "bring in their own material," O Riordain stated. He acknowledged that creating centers is not a solution to the drug problem in Ireland.

"A medically supervised injecting center is not a 'free for all' for those who wish to inject drugs," ó Ríordáin had said in his speech. "It is a clinical, controlled environment which aims to engage a hard to reach population of drug user and provide defined pathways to higher threshold treatment services such as medical and social interventions and counseling services."

The center program is modeled after similar ones that have opened in Australia, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland.

"Ireland has been relatively backward on drug policy issues for many decades, which is why the government's plan to move forward with a supervised injection facility is so welcome," Ethan Nadelmann, founder and executive director of drug policy reform group the Drug Policy Alliance, commented reported by the Huffington Post. "Western Europe has long been the global leader in pioneering harm reduction strategies, which is why it's good to see fresh momentum from Ireland and other countries that initially resisted that trend."

O Riordain added that Ireland will be also be focused on decriminalizing small amounts of drug use for all kinds of drugs. Decriminalization, however, will most likely not be considered until after the general election next April.

"It's my intention to start a national conversation to move us towards the Portuguese model with decriminalization across the board which I think is the proper way we should go," O Riordain said. "We're trying to change the entire context in which we discuss this issue from a moralistic one to one which is actually much more realistic and compassionate."

Portugal decriminalized personal drug use for all drugs in 2001.

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