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Drug debate divides French government

Drug debate divides French government
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France will not open special clinics for drug addicts to feed their habit under controlled conditions, French Prime Minister François Fillon has said.

The rejection of so called ‘shooting galleries’, which enable addicts to inject in a safe and sterile environment, comes as splits start to emerge in the French government.

The country’s health minister Roselyne Bachelot has stepped into the fray, arguing that such facilities would cut deaths and the spread of serious disease.

“A study has confirmed the benefit of these supervised injection centres where heavily addicted drug users can go to avoid contamination from viruses like hepatitis C or HIV/AIDS,” she said.

Along with Fillon, other lawmakers from France’s ruling UMP party openly oppose the idea, but the head of the French Senate has now said a commission should be set up to examine the issue.

Currently, several countries in Europe, including Portugal and Switzerland, operate such clinics.

One social worker in Switzerland explained the advantages: “They are able to develop a social fabric with each other here. They can speak about their problems to us and ask for advice,” he said.

For the moment, however, it appears more will be needed to persuade the French prime minister. He has insisted the government’s priority is to reduce drug consumption, not facilitate it.