Australia Opens Legal Heroin Injecting Room
Australia's first legal heroin injecting room opened on Sunday night in Sydney's Kings Cross district, providing drug users "all the equipment necessary to inject themselves in a private booth under medical supervision," BBC News reports. After a "long battle" with the courts, the Uniting Church of Australia opened the injecting room, which is sanctioned by the government and the police. A court ruled last month that the facility was legal, and the center will remain open for an 18-month trial period (BBC News, 5/7). The center features "stainless steel booths, free syringe dispensers and a medical treatment room" (Las Vegas Sun, 5/7). The so-called "shooting gallery" also offers professional counseling to clients. The facility plans to serve between 150 and 200 people per day, but only eight addicts used the services on its opening night. A spokesperson said that the "large number of television crews and newspaper reporters" outside the facility on its opening night "frightened away" drug users.
The center still faces strong opposition, "ranging from local businessmen to [Australian] Prime Minister John Howard, Pope John Paul II and the United Nations" (BBC News, 5/7). New South Wales state opposition leader Kerry Chikarovski said, "The injecting room is basically telling our young people that if they choose to start using illegal drugs they will be supported in that decision." But the center director said the facility aims to reduce overdose deaths in Kings Cross. Forty-five legal injecting rooms have opened around the world, including rooms in Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Spain (BBC News, 5/7).