1st Heroin-Injection Hall Opens in Australia

Prime Minister, U.N. Agencies Oppose It

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SYDNEY, Australia, MAY 8, 2001 (Zenit.org).- The first heroin-injection room has opened legally in Australia, amid continuing opposition.



The center, referred to by drug addicts as a "shooting gallery," received its first clients Sunday in Sydney´s King Cross neighborhood, after a court decided that its police license was legal, the BBC reported.

On the first day, eight addicts came to the hall. Only one asked for professional treatment, said Ingrid Van Beek, medical director of the project.

The addicts bring their own heroin and are given the necessary equipment to inject themselves in private cubicles under medical supervision. The hall is managed by the Unification Church of Australia, a union of the Congregational Union and the Methodist and Presbyterian churches of Australia.

The center will be open for an 18-month trial period. Between 150 and 200 people are expected to visit it every day.

Local businessmen as well as Prime Minister John Howard and U.N. agencies strongly oppose the project.

The Unification Church opened a similar center in 1999, but it was declared illegal two days before the police closed it down.

During an address last Oct. 20, John Paul II said, "Drugs are not combated with drugs."

"To take drugs is never the solution," the Pope said. That is why the Church "attempts to state this conviction forcefully, given opinions that call for the freeing of drug substances or, at least, their partial legalization, believing that free access to these substances contributes to limit or reduce the damage to individuals and society."

Often, drug addiction is the "consequence of an interior void" that leads to despair, the Pope said. "This is why drugs are not defeated with drugs; a broad action of prevention is necessary, which substitutes the culture of death with that of life."

The Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers is preparing a manual for people working in the area of drug addiction, which explains that treatments with drugs are not a solution to the addict´s real problem.

There are 45 drug-injection halls operating legally in the world, including in Spain, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands.