France 'Shooting Galleries' For Drug Users Debated By Government

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France is mulling the launch of "shooting galleries" where drug users can inject illegal substances in a clean and medically supervised environment, French media reported.

French Minister of Health Marisol Touraine told BFMTV that she hopes to launch the initiative by the end of the year, and that several municipalities are interested in participating in the project.

According to French newspaper Le Figaro, the galleries would allow drug addicts to inject illegal drugs in hygienic conditions and under supervision of health care workers. The galleries are currently illegal in France but exist in about 10 countries, including Switzerland and Germany.

Faced with a growing heroin problem in the capital, Paris' deputy mayor Jean-Marie Le Guen urged the French government this summer to allow the establishment of the shooting galleries, Le Monde reported.

Advocates for the galleries argue that they help to reduce the spread of infections among drug users and can help addicts find a path to treatment. According to BFMTV, deaths by overdose have dropped radically in Spain -- where there are seven such centers -- and used syringes have largely disappeared from the streets surrounding the galleries.

AFP reports, however, that the French initiative has come under heavy criticism by members of the French opposition party, UMP. Former education minister Luc Chatel reportedly told Canal Plus that the shooting galleries would send the wrong signal to France's young people. "I find it very worrying this is coming from the health minister, who is there to protect the French and young people," he said.

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Filed by Eline Gordts