Drug users in the Norwegian capital Oslo can now smoke heroin under the supervision of health professionals.
The idea behind this measure is to reduce overdose rates, which are considerable, with injections virtually nonexistent via this method, the newspaper Vårt Land reported. Smoking also has a much lower risk of passing along infections.
So-called "injection rooms" established for supervised drug intake have been converted into "user rooms", opening up the possibility of ingesting other substances via other methods, such as sniffing and smoking. The entire process is supervised by medical professionals from start to finish.
"When the plunger of the syringe sinks in, the dose goes into the blood. Then it cannot be reversed", nurse specialist Christina Livgard from the Oslo injection room told the newspaper. With smoking, it works differently. "You will fall asleep before inhaling an overdose. Obviously, you can't go on if you've fallen asleep", the nurse explained.
She also stressed that the participants would love to bring a cup of coffee on their way out and have a little chat.
The Norwegian health authorities have been trying to get more people to smoke heroin instead of injecting it intravenously for several years. To make smoking easier, a room with a cubicle and powerful ventilation was built.
"Calle", a 15-year heroin user, was the first Norwergian to try out the new smoking room. For a couple of weeks, he was able to test the room and contributed with his knowledge and experience of drug use.
"Calle" said he used the room three or four times a day and was very happy about that. Another heroin addict described smoking as a "tender, social process".
In the early 2000s, Oslo earned itself the dubious title of "drug death capital of Europe", which reflects the scope of the problem. Since then, the authorities have been pulling out all the stops in a bid to change this. While drugs remain illegal in Norway, there have been discussions with the authorities to decriminalise the issue. At present, cannabis remains the most popular illegal drug in Norway.