How have closing of services affected drug users?

DPNSEE member organisation Re Generacija implemented the survey “Access to services of ex-users of the needle and syringe programme closed in Belgrade and Budapest” with the support of the Rights Reporter Foundation. Aim of the survey, implemented in 2018, was to analyse the consequences of closing the services and the effects that it has on risks and daily life of injecting drug users. Objectives included to reach out to the service users and learning about their current use of substances, mapping their access to services, sterile injecting equipment and analysing their perception of the closure of services and most important currently missing service. The conference was also an opportunity to discuss the current situation with recently established outreach programmes, as well as opioid substitution therapy and early warning system for new psychoactive substances.

The results of the survey were presented today at the conference organised together with the Office for Combating Drugs of the Government of Republic of Serbia. The conference was held in the Palace of Serbia, with participants coming from both governmental and civil society sectors.

Two major groups of users were approached by the survey: drug users which were using the services for a long time and Roma people. A typical drug user both in Belgrade and Budapest is male, in mid-forties, with low education and income. In Budapest, users mainly use new psychoactive substances (synthetic cathinones), while in Belgrade they mainly use opioids (heroine). One of the main conclusion from the survey is that closing the services caused even more difficulties to reach out to drug users who are usually very suspicious.

To get more information and results of the survey, please contact Re Generacija following this link>>>>.

Legal needs and access to justice for people who inject drugs and sex workers in Macedonia

Our member organisation HOPS published the Research report: Legal needs and access to justice for people who inject drugs and sex workers in Macedonia.

This research represents the first effort to assess the legal needs and paths to justice for people who inject drugs and sex workers in Macedonia. It was conducted at the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017 using a mixed-methods research approach. The quantitative phase included 250 respondents chosen through stratified random sampling, out of which 169 inject/injected drugs, and 107 are/were engaged in sex work over the last three and a half years. The qualitative research phase, on the other hand, was comprised of focus group discussions with 69 respondents from both communities, as well as individual or group interviews with 7 representatives from competent institutions.

The research results showed that people who inject drugs and sex workers in Macedonia experience ten times more non-trivial justiciable problems in comparison to the general population in the country. In addition, low level of legal literacy, lack of trust in institutions and systemic discrimination, among other factors, prevent citizens from these communities to seek protection of their rights and delivery of justice through institutional mechanisms. Such circumstances confirm the communities’ high vulnerability and underline the need for advancement of their access to information, legal advice and protection.

The findings pinpoint the necessity to educate people who inject drugs and sex workers on existing institutional mechanisms for protection of rights and delivery of justice, and motivate them to take actions towards legal resolution. Since citizens from these groups trust civil society organizations the most, CSOs are the first instance where they seek free legal advice and aid. Hence, services offered to these communities by civil society organizations need to be developed further, while also advancing the cooperation between the organizations and the competent institutions, including introduction of functional referral mechanisms.

Recommendations of the report also include that overcoming prejudices against people who inject drugs and sex workers in institutions responsible for ensuring the legal order, such as the police, Legal Needs and Access to Justice for People Who Inject Drugs and Sex Workers in Macedonia prosecutors, courts and prisons is crucial. This could be achieved with temporary measures, such as trainings, field and study visits, but also through more sustainable systemic changes in the process of professional training of employees in the aforementioned institutions. Similar measures could be useful for health and social workers

To read full report follow this link>>>>. Version of the report in Macedonian is available following this link >>>>.

Serbia completed project application to the Global Fund

The National Committee for fighting HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis, which performs the role of the Country Coordinating Mechanism in Serbia, adopted today the documents which will be submitted to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The project is expected to run from July 2019 to June 2022.

Back in 2016, the Global Fund allocated €1,098,351 for HIV and building resilient and sustainable systems for health. The allocation have been determined primarily based on disease burden and income level. Serbia is classified as an upper-middle-income country. Serbia committed to encourage additional domestic investment of 25%. The first amount agreed during the application in already included in the national budget for 2019.

The project seeks to scale-up HIV testing services for all key affected populations (KPs), preventive programs for men who have sex with men and sex workers and needles and syringes program (NSP) and other preventive programs for people who inject drugs. In addition, the project seeks to maintain and extend support provided by organizations of people living with HIV to people on antiretroviral treatment. The project will fund services provided by civil society organisations and will contribute to community system strengthening. In order to reach the maximum impact the majority of prevention and support interventions will be implemented at least in the two regions (Belgrade and Vojvodina) in which majority of KPs are concentrated based on surveillance data..

The civil society organisations, including DPNSEE and our three member organisations from Serbia Prevent, Duga and Timok Youth Centre, actively participated in creating the new national HIV strategy, in the work of the National Committee and the Working group for negotiations with the Global Fund.

Meeting of the Working group for negotiations with the representatives of the Global Fund

Homophobic attack at Checkpoint in Athens

The building that houses checkpoint managed by our member organisation Positive Voice in the centre of Athens was the target of an attack with obvious homophobic motives at dawn on Monday, 11 March. The fire broke out on the first floor of the structure located in Monastiraki quarter and caused extensive material damage. However, the early intervention of the fire brigade prevented its spread to the upper floors, as well as to adjacent buildings in an extremely densely populated area.

Luckily, there were no people in the structure because volunteers of Positive Voice had left the building at 12:30 in the evening to implement the club’s external action and the attack took place about an hour and a half later.

According to the fire service, the attackers came from the balcony on the first floor and caused the fire by throwing gasoline. They threw the rainbow flag from the façade, revealing so the homophobic characteristics of the attack.

The Checkpoint as a Positive Voice initiative and AHF Europe, have conducted over 100,000 free tests and diagnosed about 30% of new HIV cases each year in Greece. The confidence of society and vulnerable groups in this effort and the international recognition of its success is due to the fact that it is as high as the value of health, dignity, equality and respect for human rights.

Through the operation of Checkpoint, Positive Voice are leading the elimination of discrimination, stereotypes and prejudices that push entire social groups into the margins and threaten social cohesion. In this way, they serve health by focusing on human beings, regardless of gender expression, identity, gender, race, age, sexual orientation, social status, religion and financial status.

The attack will not prevent Positive Voice from fulfilling their Mission nor stop its operation for a moment. Recipients of our services will be temporarily admitted to the mobile unit that is parked outside the building.

Positive Voice calls on all social partners, public bodies, institutions, civil society organizations, businesses and every citizen to raise their rainbow flag on their buildings as a symbolic response against such intimidation.

DPNSEE and it members fully support our colleagues and stand with them!

Consultations in the Office for Combating Drugs

The Office for Combating Drugs of the Government of the Republic of Serbia held a meeting with civil society organisations on 25 February 2019. Besides 11 organisations which signed the Memorandum of Understanding with the Office in 2018 (including DPNSEE and 3 of its member organisations), 4 new organisations which established formal cooperation with the Office also joined the meeting.

Most of the meeting was dedicated to the proposals for amendments to the Criminal Law related to drug-related offenses. DPNSEE sent a formal proposal to the Ministry of Justice, the Working group for changes of the Criminal Law it created, The Office for Combating Drugs and the Office for support to the civil society organisations proposing decriminalisation of drug use and possession for personal use and protection of civil society organisations providing services to drug users. The proposal is available in Serbian following this link>>>.

The proposal was appraised as a very good, clear, concise and evidence based, but concerns were expressed that it may not be supported due to current situation in the country and increased conservatism in relation to the drug use. The participants emphasized the need to establish a system of accreditation of civil society organisations services. It should include all elements of their work, from prevention, harm reduction, treatment to social services and rehabilitation.

The Office will, through their representative, present civil society proposals to the Working group for changes of the Criminal Law.

The participation of civil society organisations representatives in the Working group to prepare the new Action plan for implementing the National Drug Strategy was appraised as a very good example of partnership. The Office will propose full involvement of the civil society in designing the new Strategy.

The participants at the meeting also got acquainted with the current activities of the Office on Drugs Policy, exchanged experiences on the previous cooperation defined in the Memorandum and made suggestions for improving it.

Greek Parliament set to vote on new bill establishing Supervised Drug Consumption Sites

A hearing meeting of the Standing Committee on Social Affairs of the Hellenic Parliament took place on 20 February 2019 to discuss draft law submitted by the Health Ministry. Among others, it includes various amendments of the Law 4139/2013 on drugs as well as a specific provision for the legal establishment of supervised drug consumption sites in Greece. The debate over the recent draft law is entitled “Private Clinics Statutory Framework, Modernization and Reformative recommendations, The National Public Health Organization establishment, the National Institute of Neoplasms and the other provisions establishment”.

Sofia GalinakiSofia Galinaki, Advocacy Officer of Diogenis and representative of the Greek organizations’ Platform for psychoactive substances, participated in the hearing, during which in cooperation with other Platform’s member organizations presented a series of proposals aiming to improve this legislative initiative.

Α relevant proposals’ memorandum was submitted on behalf of the Platform to the Committee and the Minister of Health, Mr A. Xanthos.

The second reading of the draft law by the Committee scheduled for 26 February 2019.

The current Law (in Greek) is available following this link>>>>

Public debate on legalization of cannabis held in Republic of Northern Macedonia

“Decriminalization of the use of cannabis can have economic benefits for citizens, for agriculture and for the state,” is the general conclusion of the hearing “The economic and health benefits of legalization of cannabis in the Republic of Macedonia”. The debate was organised in the Economic Affairs Committee of the Assembly of the Republic of Northern Macedonia on 22 February 2019..

legalisation of cannabisVarious opinions on the economic and health benefits of cannabis, its use in agriculture and industry, the need for appropriate legal changes for better regulation of this matter, recommendations and appropriate education of the necessary personnel were highlighted at the public debate.

John Ilija Apelgrin and Janaki Mitrovski, founders of the NGO Bilka addressed the public debate. Representatives of Neuromedica Medical Center, Clinic for Pediatric Diseases, civil sector, Clinic for Toxicology, Faculty of Agricultural Sciences and Food, Faculty of Pharmacy, NGO Bivium and several parliamentarians participated in the debate.

 

 

More notifications from the Slovenian Early Warning System

Our colleagues from the Alliance of Non Governmental Organisations for Drugs and Addictions from Slovenia forwarded us more information from the Early Warning System on new psychoactive substances (NPS).

Four different ecstasy pills with a very high MDMA content were detected in Maribor, namely blue Punisher (284 mg MDMA), pink Red Bull (213 mg), brown Pharoh (197 mg) and green Shell (171 mg) pills. Punisher’s blue ecstasy was also detected in Ljubljana and appeared in Slovenj Gradec.

Also, pink ecstasy pills and three other strong ecstasy pills with a very high content of MDMA have recently been detected in Ljubljana.

Literature indicates that the “acceptable” dose of MDMA is 1 – 1.5 mg/kg of body weight. That means that for a person who weighs 60 kg the dose is 60 – 90 mg. In quantities greater than 120 mg, the possibility of complications due to MDMA ingestion is increased (nausea, vomiting, cramping, restlessness and paranoia, severe motor disorders, headache, panic attack, high blood pressure, increased sweating, loss of consciousness, overheating of the body, etc.). 200 or more mg for many people means at least twice the dose in which the adverse effects are greatly increased.

At doses higher than 400 mg, the possibility of death overdose is greatly increased.

Besides MDMA pills, a fake LSD pill was also offered in Maribor. It actually contains synthetic pseudelic 25B-NBOMe, for which little information is available. Users describe that 25B-NBOMe has a hallucinogenic effect already in very small quantities and is very difficult to use safely. They also present a number of side effects, such as: tongue and mouth, nausea, increased heart rate, high blood pressure, agitation, confusion, seizures, fever. A lot of cases of poisoning and fatalities are associated with substances from the group 25-NBOMe. Therefore, extra prudence and compliance with the recommendations for harm reduction are recommended.

Due to the likelihood that these pills will occur in other places around Slovenia and in neighbouring countries, users are advised to use them caution and contact anonymous testing service wherever available.

The samples were collected at the info points of the DrogArt Association in Maribor and Ljubljana within the service of anonymous testing of psychoactive substances. The samples was analysed at the National Laboratory for Health, Environment and Food.

Drogart advices 6 ways to decrease the possibility of complications when using pills:

  • Always check which pill you have.
  • Try to find as much information as possible about the content of the pill and effects (for example, people who know this pill read current user reports and alerts on the Internet). But be careful – the same look does not necessarily mean the same content.
  • Test the tablet before testing.
  • Start with a quarter or at least a half and wait two hours to see what the effects are.
  • If you decide to redisplay, be careful. This puts more and more burdens on the body, as well as negative effects.
  • Do not mix with other drugs (including alcohol), as this increases the likelihood of complications and overdoses.
  • Drink enough liquid (but not more than 0.5 l per hour), soak enough rest and fresh air.

Survey of drug users mapping in the centre of Athens

DPNSEE member organisations from Greece Prometheus and Positive Voice have developed a study on the anthropogeography of users of psychoactive substances in the centre of Athens in September 2018 using a sample of 200 people. The survey collected information on demographics and living conditions of users, type of psychoactive substance they use and whether or not they joined the retirement or substitution program.

According to the findings of the study, 80% of users are male. The average age is on an upward trend compared to 2010 (33.7) and 2012 (37) – currently it is 38 years. 53% of the sample are primary school graduates, while in terms of nationality there is an increase in the number of foreigners (from 13% in 2012 to 34.5%).

In the residence area in the centre of Athens, the largest concentration of population is located in the areas of Vathis Square, Karaiskakis Square the Theatre Square and the University campus. Regarding the type of psychoactive substance, the highest rate is 63.5% heroin use, while cocaine use accounts for 44.5% of the sample, 14% for Tai, 16% for benzodiazepines and 15% for shisha.

Out of the 200 people, 116 have been included, even once during their lifetime, in a drug rehabilitation or substitution program. However, at the time of the survey, only 49 people were enrolled in a program. The majority of the sample (130 persons) is not in a program or have applied for it.

In conclusion, it is noted that the population of psychoactive drug users in the centre of Athens is “aging“, while the association of the particular population with a high risk of premature death is questioned. Also, high users’ time in the centre of Athens, coupled with the increased rate of homelessness, raises serious issues of personal and public health and user safety. The findings of this study are consistent with the results of the Aristotel’s HCV/HIV study and demonstrate the need for harm reduction policies such as the re-opening of the medically supervised areas and the immediate increase in free distribution of safe use in cooperation with organizations active in the field.

To summarize, the findings of the study highlight the issue by demonstrating that the problems associated with the drug use in the centre of Athens are perpetuated, increased and differentiated at rates that require immediate and effective action.

The study was conducted in collaboration with a working group under the scientific responsibility of Mr. Giorgos Kalamitsis, President of Hellenic Patients’ Association Prometheus, Minerva Melpomeni Malliori, Professor of Psychiatry, First Psychiatric Clinic of Athens University, Eginiteio Hospital and Vana Sypsa, Professor of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Laboratory of Epidemiology and Medical Statistics of the Medical School of the University of Athens and courtesy of the Athens Trade Association and the Union of Hoteliers of Attica and Argos Oasaronic.

To view the original article follow this link>>>>

Bosnian version of the Glossary

With the support of our member organisation Margina, DPNSEE produced the Glossary of terms used in drug policy in Bosnian.

The Glossary is prepared with the aim to contribute to better understanding the drug problem in more emphatic manner. Glossary is an alphabetical list of terms with definitions.

This is the fourth language in which the Glossary is published, after the original version in English and those in Spanish and Serbian.

To download the Glossary in Bosnian, follow this link>>>>