Drug Consumption Rooms in Germany

Visible use of illegal substances has always been a challenge. Beginning in the mid-1980s – with the sudden danger of getting infected with the HIV virus– the exchange of needles and syringes and projects with integrated drug consumption such as housing projects and drug service centers were tolerated silently by politicians – even without a legal foundation.
This inevitably gave rise to discussions about relocating the consumption of heroin and cocaine from the public space into facilities offering a controlled, hygienic and safe environment.

The precarious situation in Germany's largest open drug scene –, the Taunusanlage in Frankfurt am Main – had resulted in almost 200 deaths in public spaces at that time and increasingly concerned the citizens, politicians and city government. The retired chief prosecutor Dr. Körner, Director of the Central Department of Combating Narcotics-Related Crime (ZfB), presented a legal opinion in May of 1993.

According to Dr. Körner, the health rooms do not provide an opportunity for a determined drug addicts to use  drugs; instead, they are just offered the opportunity to use substances that have already been acquired and brought with them in a “hygienic and stress-free” environment. Consequently, there should be no criminalisation of the place of assistance (in drug emergencies, for example) or its employees.

This legal opinion served as sufficient legal basis for the city, police and state attorney's office in Frankfurt am Main – where the first health room was opened in December of 1994.

In February of 1995 and May of 1996, this was followed by additional drug consumption room offers. Similar facilities were also opened in Lower Saxony (Hannover) and in the Saarland (Saarbrücken).

On 1 April 2000, the 3rd Amendment of German Narcotics Law (3. BtMGÄndG) came into effect as a uniform federal framework regulation.

The newly created § 10a of the Narcotics Law serves as a legal foundation for the establishment of drug consumption rooms in Germany. The aim was to legalise existing facilities and to add more of them.