Drug consumption rooms are a good idea

One can only estimate how many drug addicts there are in Munich. The current estimate is between 3,500 and 4,000 opiate addicts in the city, explains Irena Wunsch from the Munich AIDS organization. Heroin is an opiate, and so is morphine - the hard stuff. "Many addicts live very inconspicuously and can therefore not be reached by the support system," says Wunsch. And that is unlikely to change. The CSU parliamentary group in Munich's town hall has submitted a motion to the city council calling for the creation of a drug consumption room including therapy offers, but the decision lies with the state government - and they think little of the idea.

Health Minister Melanie Huml collects the advance of her party colleagues from the town hall before the city council could debate it. "Drug consumption rooms do not help to reduce the number of drug deaths," she said when asked by the SZ. On the contrary, it is to be feared that they will even attract illegal drug trafficking. In cities with drug consumption rooms, the number of drug deaths is high. Or it increases significantly. Huml cites Berlin as an example. The number of drug deaths there rose steadily from 2012 to 2016, from 113 to 167. In Munich, on the other hand, the number fell most recently, from 64 in 2016 to 44 in 2017, and the trend continues to fall. In principle, the minister argues, it is a contradiction to prosecute the possession and acquisition of narcotics, but on the other hand to facilitate the consumption of illegal drugs in consumption rooms.

The health policy spokesman for the CSU parliamentary group shares the opinion of his minister: "Personally, I don't think much of setting up drug consumption rooms," says Bernhard Seidenath. The town hall faction had not agreed with him. And Seidenath also does not believe that many within the Munich CSU are campaigning for this advance. Pressure rooms contribute "in a certain way to downplaying drug consumption" - if only because they are used to signal to young people that the state allows you to consume drugs without criminal prosecution. When it comes to the dangers of drugs, there is only one thing: zero tolerance.

The CSU has followed this line of argument for more than 20 years. Experts often see it differently. "The use of drug consumption rooms has been scientifically proven," says Holger Wicht, spokesman for the German Aids Aid in Berlin. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction consider them to be among the most important offers to prevent deaths and infections and to reach people who previously had no access to drug help. "The experts agree that these rooms have a very important function," says Wicht.

While fix rooms are not allowed in Bavaria, they have been operated in Berlin, Hamburg, Hesse, Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia and Saarland for several years. Several thousand human lives have been saved as a result, estimates the Aids-Hilfe. Consumption rooms would also not fuel the illegal drug trade in their vicinity, as opponents often point out. "A classic defense strategy," says Wicht, "but that's just wrong." Drug consumption is not created through consumption rooms, there is one way or another. But one can mitigate the damage that occurs for the addicts and for society through such spaces.

Not only addiction experts, but also local residents plead for the creation of such an offer. "You have to help people somehow," says Fritz Wickenhäuser, chairman of the Südliches Bahnhofsviertel district association. "Just sending them away is no solution. Where are you supposed to go?" A consumption room can help the addicts no longer put the needle in house entrances or parking garages. In addition, says Wickenhäuser, one would have the chance to "have a positive effect on people" in pressure rooms. Without a central point of contact, it is difficult for helpers to address addicts, care for them and provide them with therapies. The drug scene in Munich is fragmented and scattered across the city, says the former street worker Wunsch.

Even if the number of drug deaths has recently declined, "there are a lot of people here who are dependent," Wunsch emphasized. Consumption rooms have proven their worth nationwide. "It's about caring for seriously ill people," explains Wunsch, "but in Bavaria they are only considered criminals."