Holy See´s Statement on Drug Injection Rooms

At Session of U.N. Narcotics Commission

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VIENNA, Austria, MAR. 25, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of an address delivered here Tuesday by Monsignor Dominique Rézeau, head of the Holy See´s delegation to the 44th Session of the U.N. Narcotics Commission.

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Mr. Chairman,

Following the request of the International Narcotics Control Board, this delegation wishes to express the view of the Holy See on the issue of medically supervised drug injection rooms. In doing so we are directed by the very nature of the Holy See and its specific mission which call us to focus our considerations on the ethical aspects of the establishment and administering of such facilities.

The establishment of drug injection rooms in a number of countries is a phenomenon observed in the last years of the past century. This phenomenon has called for an in-depth reflection and evaluation of this practice on the side of all interested parties who are involved in any form of activities related to drug control.

It is surely not an easy task to come to a balanced answer that would be acceptable and satisfying for all parties on this matter. The supporters of drug injection rooms underline the measurable results achieved with this initiative, the others — who are not too much or at all convinced that drug injection rooms are in conformity with existing international drug control treaties — underline its unlawful character and the obligation of governments to combat illicit drug trafficking in all its forms.

Leaving apart the delicate question of conformity between the international drug control treaties and constitutional principles and basic concepts of legal systems of involved countries, we would like to stress that the question of drug injection rooms, where drug addicts may inject themselves with illicit substances, should be faced primarily from the point of view of the human person as such, because the human person is really at the center of the problem of drug dependence.

On the basis of this fundamental principle we can say that drug dependence is against life itself. We can neither talk about a “freedom of taking drugs” nor about a “right for drugs,” because a human person has no right to damage himself and cannot and should not renounce his personal dignity bestowed upon him by God alone. It is especially dangerous in the case of the young.

Having this in mind it seems clear that providing a “clean” environment for taking illicit drugs is not acceptable from an ethical point of view. It is in fact not aimed at treating drug addicts to free them to the extent possible from their habit. Therefore such initiatives seem to be inadequate and even unlawful in the approach to drug addicts. The right approach must have as its aim health care and the liberation of the person from conditions unworthy of a human being.

This approach must be a part of a broad spectrum of various activities by governmental, nongovernmental and private institutions and individuals aiming inter alia at discovering the roots of drug dependence, at education and prevention especially among the young.

The supporters of the practice of drug injection rooms underline in their arguments the measurable harm reduction for society as a whole and for individuals in particular: diminishing the danger of overdose, infections, transmission of various diseases.

Nevertheless it should be pointed out that there are disadvantages connected to drug injection rooms as well. The main one could be characterized as a low interest for social reintegration on the side of drug addicts who make use of such establishments.

As to the argument that drug injection rooms are harm reducing, it should be pointed out that an analogical harm reduction occurs in therapeutical communities which are aimed at recuperation of drug addicts and at their social reintegration.

The fact that the consumption of illicit drugs and the establishment of drug injection rooms are ethically not acceptable, does not mean a condemnation of drug addicts who make use of such centers. The right approach could not be a sole legal repression or ethical condemnation of the drug addicts but all efforts should be taken toward rehabilitation of these persons in order to enable them for a long-lasting social reintegration.

Without questioning the sincerity and humanitarian intentions behind the establishment of drug injection rooms we would like to stress once more that the creation and operation of such institution is for the Holy See ethically unacceptable and unlawful.

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