Pubdate: Wed, 27 Feb 2002
Source: Australian Associated Press (Australia Wire)
Copyright: 2002 Australian Associated Press
Author: Maria Hawthorne and Judy Skatssoon
Bookmark: (Safe Injecting Rooms)


LONDON - Sydney's heroin injecting room is in breach of international drug 
conventions and must be closed down, the world anti-drugs body says.

In its 2001 annual report the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) 
condemned the opening of the medically-supervised Kings Cross facility and 
called on the federal government to bring its states into line.

The injecting room - and the governments which allowed it to open - 
condoned illicit drug taking and drug trafficking, the board said.

The board, a quasi-judicial body set up to enforce the 1961 United Nations 
convention on drugs, said the room's potential for harm reduction to 
addicts was outweighed by its potential to damage the anti-drugs fight.

INCB president Hamid Ghodse said the board had gone public because its 
behind-the-scenes diplomatic efforts had failed to convince NSW authorities 
to close the room.

"We have definitely exhausted quiet diplomacy," Prof Ghodse told AAP.

"The board considers injecting rooms, wherever they are, to be in violation 
of the conventions. If the government provides the outlet for illicit drug 
trafficking, that's exactly the opposite of what the convention asks them 
to do - to stop the illicit drug."

Prof Ghodse said it would be a different matter if the rooms were only used 
by people administering heroin or other drugs which had been prescribed for 

But he said that did not mean the INCB supported a heroin trial.

"I didn't say that," he said.

"The injecting room is not only for heroin. The injecting room is basically 
where you can use your ecstasy, you can use your injecting amphetamines, 
you can inject cocaine. An injecting room is a venue to come to use your 

The injecting room opened after intense debate on May 6 last year, a 
product of the state's 1999 Drug Summit.

Supporters argue it is saving lives and providing referrals to help addicts 
get off drugs.

The centre was currently used by an average 120 injecting drug users a day, 
its medical director Ingrid van Beek said.

More than 800 clients had been referred to counsellors and other medical 
services and more than 100 overdoses had been successfully treated.

There had been no fatalities at the centre.

Dr van Beek declined to comment specifically on the INCB report.

A spokesman for NSW Special Minister of State John Della Bosca said Mr 
Della Bosca addressed the INCB in Geneva last January and presented a paper 
outlining the centre's trial period.

"He explained ... the various signs which came out of the six months report 
which were almost entirely good and that there were none of the problems 
that many had feared," the spokesman said.
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