Working with active drug users

Regional Training Conference “Access to Treatment and Harm Reduction” Bratislava 12.10.2002

Drug users always are dangerous people for themselves and for the others. It is in the interest of the Authorities worldwide to contact and to get to know as much drug users as possible, all of them if possible. Tight epidemiological relations between the intra-venous use of substances and the HIV transmission give even more priority to this strategy. It is useful to open Anti-drugs centers, but it isn’t enough.

The person going to one of these centers asking for help is different than the others who don’t go because they cannot stand the related frustration with the request of help itself. A more active and aggressive strategy is needed in such cases: going towards toxicomanics in the same places where they use substances and where drug addicted people live their ordinary tragedy of life.

A “low threshold” intervention is needed, which doesn’t target an immediate redemption but aims intermediate purposes, like diseases transmission prevention, health care relief, overdose prevention. The aim is to let the drug users to live a less dramatic and dangerous life for themselves and for the others rather than the one if they would be left alone without any help.

To be successful, the on-the-road intervention doesn’t need to be autocratic nor paternalistic but a horizontal strategy basis of peer education. In this process, the presence of “cultural mediators” is crucial. They will act as link to “bridge the gap”. It is important that people throughout Europe involved in such borderline activities share their experiences and resources in the perspective of a common and united action.

Massimo Barra
President of ERNA