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Denmark: Plan to Distribute Overdose Kits

(Oct. 18, 2012) The Danish government announced this month that it will distribute overdose kits to drug users in the capital city, <?Copenhagen. The purpose is to reduce the rate of drug-related deaths in the country, currently among the highest such rates in Europe; in 2010, 273 overdoses in Denmark resulted in deaths. (Copenhagen Addicts to Be Given Overdose Kits, ICE NEWS (Oct. 12, 2012).) Each kit will contain several doses of Naloxon, a medication used in cases of opiate overdoses, together with revival equipment. The program will serve hardcore opiate users. Denmark has an estimated 33,000 drug users, with 13,000 of them taking those drugs via injections. (Christian Wenande, Overdose Kits to Be Distributed to Drug Users, THE COPENHAGEN POST (Oct. 5, 2012).)

The plan, which will begin operation in 2013, will cost about DKK6 million (about US$1.04 million). It will be a cooperative effort between the Danish government and the political organization Enhedslisten, or Red-Green Alliance. There will be an additional DKK2 million allocated for a study of narcotics deaths. One question to be studied is whether or not the people who died of overdoses had previously been in contact with the authorities. (Copenhagen Addicts to Be Given Overdoes Kits, supra.) Enhedslisten was created in 1989 as a cooperative of the Communist Party of Denmark, the Left Socialist Party, and the Socialist Workers Party, together with some independent socialists. (The Red-Green Alliance, Enhedslisten website (last visited Oct. 15, 2012).)

The Copenhagen City Council recently held a trial run of the program, which was considered to be a success. Astrid Krag, the Minister of Health, stated of the trial that “[o]ur experience is that it really made a difference and that’s why we’ve decided to act on it now.” (Copenhagen Addicts to Be Given Overdose Kits, supra.) She added that the city had already established an injection room. (Id.) Additional rooms in other neighborhoods of the city are planned. The two initiatives together – the rooms and the kits – are expected to have an impact on the death rate. (Overdose Kits to Be Distributed to Drug Users, supra.)

Opposition political leaders oppose the program. Tom Behnke of the Konservative Party argued that the program was wasteful, stating, “[m]any of the people that die inject alone, and that’s why I doubt that this initiative will work in the real world. If you’re with someone who ODs, you can call 112 for an ambulance who will administer the antidote.” He added that if it is found to be effective, he would not oppose the plan to distribute kits, but that he thought “the money could have been used in a better way.” (Id.)