Samstag, 4. April 2015

D is for Drogen

2 cops writing kids tickets
for smoking pot on the river.
I moved to Switzerland in 2004, so the government had already taken action to change their heroin problem. I'd most recently been living in Philadelphia, near Malcom X park. I never entered that park, as the drug trade happening there made it feel unsafe. It's equivalent in Zürich was Needle Park, or Platzspitz park, just behind the Landesmuseum. The central green area was filled with heroin addicts during the 80s and most Zürich residents avoided it. 
According to the president of the Addiction Research Institute at Zurich University"The Swiss population has generally always had a high addiction liability in comparison to other European countries, in alcoholism, cigarette smoking, and in illegal drugs as well." The 83-year-old Professor Ambros Uchtenhagen was responsible for establishing in- and out-patient rehab clinics at the Uni's Psychology department. He also set up emergency teams, which were dispatched to revive overdoses on site. 
His work was integral to changing the political way that addicts and addiction were being addressed. Initially (and familiarly to an American) the political response was police crackdown with severe prison sentences. Thankfully, Uchtenhagen was made chair of the Cantonal Drug Commission and took the dramatic and controversial decision to pilot a program of heroin assisted treatment. This is the legal and medically supervised prescription of synthetic doses of opioids. 
Within 4 years, deaths as a result of overdose were reduced by approximately 50 percent, and the instance of HIV infections reduced by 65 percent. Today, one might come across a FLASH packet in a public toilet (where needle disposal bins are handily available.) Those cartons once contained a patient's methadone (such litter is most often found in areas around pharmacies.) 
"Needle Park" Autumn 2014
Today, "Needle Park" is a lovely place to walk during the day...if that day isn't early Sat or Sunday. Because then it's full of empty packets, bottles and cans, from the drunken teenagers the night before.  

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