Heroin Add & Rel Clin Probl 2000 ; 2 (2): 29-33 Policy Initiatives
This article discusses recent changes in France from what has mainly been a repressively oriented drug policy towards accepting and supporting a variety of harm reduction measures. The introduction of harm reduction in the early nineties proved to be very successful in terms of harm reduction and is already a reality. Most officials, however, are still reluctant to support this implicit policy change openly, or work coherently for a reduction of current inconsistencies or admit the overwhelming success those changes have brought about, so the author is afraid of a serious backlash. The positive effects may be threatened if the public is not adequately informed about the new situation and its positive effects. The government may be unwilling to continue supporting harm reduction in the face of increasing public criticism based on ignorance and an inadequate conception of how to preserve public order in connection with illicit drugs.
For more than twenty years (1970-1992), there had been no public debate on drug policy in France. Faced with increasing public concern, politicians – on both the right and left – formed a united front against liberalisation. The State took on the role of protecting citizens against the peril of drugs. The criminal justice system was considered to be the best way to protect public health, whereas treatment was seen as a gesture of leniency reserved for repentant drug users. Politicians were only concerned with preventing an escalation, which the extreme right attempted to foster.