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drug addiction

City of Bilbao advises cocaine users to “chop up your line nice and fine”

Authorities pull campaign following social controversy over safe use recommendations

Every Saturday, a van parks at a spot in Bilbao that is popular with youths who are out for a night of partying. The vehicle is here to provide guidance about the risks of drug consumption. It is a mobile “personal information stand” sponsored by the Basque city to “minimize the damage” caused by drug use.

Drug users in Bilbao have been issued with plastic cards to chop their cocaine or speed.
Drug users in Bilbao have been issued with plastic cards to chop their cocaine or speed.

But controversy has broken out over the material that staffers are handing out to drug users, particularly a credit card-sized piece of plastic with the following advice: “Pica bien tu raya” (chop up your line nice and fine), and “Rula sólo con tu rulo” (don’t share the straw you use for snorting drugs).

The material was handed out throughout the local fiestas held there in August, and is also distributed on weekends.

It’s completely nonsensical to hand out something that looks like a consumption kit

Luis Eguiluz, PP spokesman in Bilbao

The campaign, which began in May, has been widely commented on via social media. The biggest critics feel that its “festive tone” could have the opposite effect and encourage drug use. The Popular Party (PP) conservatives have asked Mayor Juan María Aburto, of the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), to pull the campaign immediately.

Flooded with protests, the health department has decided to stop handing out the material.

The plastic card was being given to users of cocaine and speed (amphetamine). The message, printed in Spanish and Basque, added the following warning: “If it’s not properly chopped, you could damage your nasal passages.”

Local staff were also handing out a brochure recommending that users not share the banknote or other object used to snort drugs in order to “reduce damage” and prevent “the spread of respiratory diseases and hepatitis.”

Yolanda Díez, the Socialist councilor in charge of the health department, says the goal of the campaign was to “minimize damage.”

Our goal is not to encourage drug use, but if people are going to use drugs, it should at least be done safely

Yolanda Díez, Bilbao health chief

“Our goal is not to encourage drug use, but if people are going to do drugs, it should at least be done safely,” she said.

The slogans were created by a group called Energy Control, which provides advice to the staff manning the information van.

The PP spokesman in Bilbao, Luis Eguiluz, said he did not question the good intentions behind the campaign, but said that “the format is not adequate.”

“It’s completely nonsensical to hand out something that looks like a consumption kit with such a frivolous, almost festive slogan on it,” he said.

The city will stop handing out the material to drug users, although the information stand will still be available on Saturdays in popular recreational areas.

English version by Susana Urra.

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