CASO (Cosumidores Associados Sobrevivem Organizados) / Portugal

‘Plenty of plans for a young organsiation’

“At the moment there are 5 persons actively involved in CASO’s work. Although CASO aims to be a national Association but at the moment we mainly work in the North of Portugal and the city that we know best is Porto. Currently all of us do this work voluntarily. Two of us also work as peer educators in harm reduction teams,

CASO’s beginning was inspired by the visit from a Dutch drug user activist, Theo Van Dam to Portugal in 2007, organized by APDES, the local harm reduction organisation.

Gemeentelijk Overleg Antwerpen (GOA) / Belgium

Peer involvement revival with municipal support

“At the end of the 1990s the first initiatives on harm reduction started in Antwerp that really involved drug users.  In our city the pioneer and main supporter of harm reduction has been, and is the Free Clinic, the main service provider organisation in town. They introduced the concepts of harm reduction and peer support and continuously hammered away on the fact that drug users must be at the front and centre of services and policies.

At the moment there is revival of peer involvement in our city.  Experienced people are now hired by the municipality to support services and to work on greater, genuine participation of people using drugs. This resulted in our current initiative Gebruikers Overleg Andtwerpen (GOA),

Greek Drug & Substitution Users Union / Greece

Successful rallies in front of the Ministry of Health to prevent closing OST services

“In 2013 Greece had been in the centre of attention. Things like the austerity measures, public health service cuts and the social costs of all these measures draw a lot of international media attention. On top of that a HIV crises emerged.

However, during these difficult conditions, drug users seem more prepared than ever to support advocacy for their rights and contribute their experience and practical knowledge.  Our initiative, the Greek Drug and Substitution Users Union, started in 2011 out of the need to advocate for our peers’ rights. We just felt we were ready to take action and let ourselves, not the professionals, speak for ourselves.”

Infoshock / Turin, Italy

“There can be no change without culture.”

“We are an Italian initiative in Turin in the north of Italy: Infoshock.

The organisation is partly activist, anti drug prohibition initiative which provides information and health services at parties in our region.

We are part of a larger movement the free festival movement, we urge for ‘free parties’ and are present at raves, in squats and other self managed places. We are on the edge of policitical activism, anti-drug war and pro-harm reduction.”

Junkies, Ex-User, Substituierte (JES) / Germany

25 years of building alliances without losing ideals

„Junkies, Ex-User, Substituierte (JES) is a relatively old organisation, founded in 1989.  We are a National Association of drug users, former users and people in opiate substitution treatment. JES is special because all users are considered equal: no matter if people are currently using, have quit, or are currently in treatment.  However, there are series of common aspects and common principles all of us stand for: ’For a life of human dignity with drugs’.

Joost Brantas / Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Veteran activist still going strong

“I have worked in many initiatives in my town.  Some were extremely important and were very effective getting the ´junky-issue´ on the agenda.  But I also witnessed many personality clashes, the rise and fall of talented advocates, often refelcted in the rise and fall of their initiatives.  A dreadful drain of energy.  So many initiatives vanished, and nowadays I work together with all kinds of organisations.

Personally I'm good at advocacy.  A fancy word, but to put it simple: I´m not afraid, and when I see any injustice I simply raise my voice. 

Actually I'm a one-man pressure group.  Not by principle, but by character.”

Scottish Drug Forum / Scotland, United Kingdom

Peer research at arms’ length

“The Scottish Drug Forum has had a long history of involving people who use drugs. Since the early 1990s, SDF has worked to involve those receiving services for their drug problem so that service users can influence how services are planned and organised.  Over a number of years, we struggled to create an effective role for SDF in supporting user involvement.  In 2003, we developed a model of User Involvement that focused on social/peer research.  During the past 10 years this has proved to be a very sustainable model, and one that has been successful in urban and rural areas.”

Suomen Lummery / Finland

Fighting the bad attitudes on drug users in society

“Our initiative started some years ago in 2006.  The Swedish user union, Brukarföreningen, has been a wonderful example for us, motivating Finnish users, to start our own union.  As you might notice, the Finnish union has copied the logo from Sweden.  At the moment our union has around 100 members, but actively involved are around ten people.  The professional agency A-Klinikka foundation has supported and promoted our work, since we started.

Svenska Brukarföreningen (SBF) / Sweden

Bridge building champions in a rejecting climate

Swedish Drug Users’ Union (SDUU), known in Swedish as Svenska Brukarföreningen (SBF) has become an example of an outstanding peer initiative. The organization was founded in 2002 by Berne Stålenkranz and Björn Hjerdin (counselor at a local methadone clinic), well aware of the difficulty to break through the moralistic climate. Stålenkranz: “We were fed up with the stigma and discrimination, and the lack of access for drug users to proper health systems. And with the lack of having any kind of peer organization that could represent active users. The existing agencies were consisting of family members of users, ex-users, but no active users. And all of them were speaking on our behalf. That’s a mistake: they are no users. We are users. So that’s why we organized ourselves.

And we took the motto from the Vancouver-declaration of the establishment of INPUD: ‘Nothing about us, without us’.”

UISCE / Dublin, Ireland

Together with active local communities, family members and government

“Our organization started as a result of a radical overhaul of the national drug strategy in 1997-98.  This created the establishment of a ‘Task Force’ in areas most affected by drugs, and also in areas of relatively high social deprivation.  The idea was to bring together representatives of the community (community leaders, often people centrally involved in anti-drugs street protests and borderline vigilantism, plus parents of drug users), including Statutory (Police, Government departments) and NGO sectors.  We lobbied to have a seat for someone to represent drug users.  Tommy Larkin was this person, and our organization grew from Tommy being given a budget to develop the role. Currently we are two employees.”

Unity / Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Peer work on the dance floor

“Unity is a peer education intervention that is aimed at providing information to the dance going public about  'party drugs'.  The project has 6 departments in different regional parts of the Netherlands and attends approximately 100 high profile festivals or dance events per year.  Unity is supported by Jellinek Prevention, and 6 other institutions for mental health care.  These institutions host the project and provide the administrative infrastructure and resources to implement the project.”