Making drug rooms legal in Belgium?

Although different stakeholders are keen to set up drug rooms, the Federal government is skeptical about it.

Fighting drug consumption and addiction is a pressing question across Europe and the World. There is surely no perfect way to tackle the issue: and different policies have been being conducted for years.

While it seems there has been no real solution, it’s worth wondering how the public authorities deal with drug addicted people. Some policy-makers and active stakeholders have been calling for the opening of drug rooms. Drug rooms refer to dedicated places where consumers can be provided with “clean” drugs. It aims at reducing infections, proliferation of diseases as well as advising and supporting addicted consumers give up drugs.

The sanitary benefit is obvious, as there is less risk of users overdosing. But this move also has an economic advantage, as these systems induce less underground consumption and traffics, which could result in saving for police forces.

The city of Liège has opened the debate to set up such rooms a few months ago. Together with the city of Bruxelles, representatives have been involved in a European projects a couple of weeks ago in Paris. It gathered both cities which aim to implement this using the guidance of cities already implementing it.

Other Belgian cities, such as Antwerp or Charleroi, have also been talking about drug rooms, but it seems Liège remains one step ahead. Willy Demeyer, the Liège mayor (Socialist), has been pushing for this policy for years, and he managed to convince political parties, judicial authorities and citizen organisations to the idea.

However, drug rooms cannot be achieved if the Federal government is not onboard, as the to decision to act lies with the Federal competences. Maggie De Block, the Federal minister for Public health and Social affairs (Open Vld), does not support the idea. And the N-VA, the most powerful Belgian party, is also opposed to this project. It is then very unlikely to be possible to lead the opening of drug rooms in Belgium over the upcoming years.

Many countries have implemented them, though. In the past decade, France, the Netherlands and Spain use the initiative. A subsequent report conducted a couple of years ago by the European Harm Reduction Network came to the conclusion that drug rooms are proving beneficial in many circumstances.