Home > Frankfurt's response to open drug scenes and drug-related harm.

Connolly, Johnny (2008) Frankfurt's response to open drug scenes and drug-related harm. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 28, Winter 2008, p. 12.

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On the initiative of the Finnish Presidency of the EU in 2006, a European network of multi-agency partnerships tackling drug problems at front-line level was established in 2007. Called EXASS Net, the network is managed by the Pompidou Group of the Council of Europe.1

 The third EXASS Net meting was held in Frankfurt/Main, Germany, in May 2008.  It began with the screening of a short film on the city’s open drug scene in the 1980s and early 1990s.  During those years, between 700 and 1,000 injecting drug users were present in the city, day and night, making it one of the largest open drug scenes in Europe. An average of 16 injection-related medical emergencies a day required ambulance/doctor assistance and cost the city over €50,000 a week. Intensified policing of the situation merely led to its displacement to other locations in the city. There were almost 6,000 drug users registered with the police at the time, with a hidden figure estimated at three to four times that number. The incidence of drug-related crime, particularly property offences, was high and the number of drug-related deaths reached nearly 150 a year.
In the past 20 years, concerned stakeholders at frontline level (including law enforcement and social and health services) have been involved in a new approach to drug use in Frankfurt. Central to this new approach was the establishment of new partnerships between stakeholder agencies, called the Monday Round (1988) and the Friday Round (1989). The latter initiative initially involved consultation with street workers who were trying to cope with the open drug scene. Round-table partnership discussions started to provide solutions to the problems faced. The process involved:
  • building up crisis centres to attract those users who were being moved on from the street;
  • an acknowledgement that the client group was high demand and difficult;
  • the movement by police of out-of-town drug users back to their own residential areas and the movement of Frankfurt drug users into crisis centres; and
  • an emphasis on basic needs at the initial stage of intervention, including accommodation and medical support, followed by diversion to treatment programmes as appropriate.
There are currently 1,300 clients on methadone programmes in Frankfurt. Approximately 650 are treated in clinics, and the remainder in general practice. There is a range of low-threshold services throughout the city dealing with different types of drug use and associated health and social problems. The first drug consumption room, where drug users were provided with sterile injecting equipment and other services and where they could consume drugs under supervision, was opened in 1994. Crack-smoking facilities have been provided in consumption rooms since 2002.
The fourth meeting of EXASS Net took place in Moscow in October 2008; future meetings are scheduled for Budapest, Oslo and Amsterdam. These meetings will consider subjects including youth drug cultures, party drugs and club scenes, the role of outreach in response to drug problems and the role of drug users in developing responses.
1.  More information about the EXASS Network and online reports of its activities can be found at http://www.coe.int/t/dg3/pompidou/activities/exassnet_EN.asp
Item Type
Publication Type
International, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
Substances (not alcohol/tobacco)
Intervention Type
Harm reduction
Issue Title
Issue 28, Winter 2008
Page Range
p. 12
Health Research Board
Issue 28, Winter 2008
Accession Number
HRB (Available)

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