Inside Zurich’s Drug Distribution Point: The Controversy of Medical Heroin Sales at Main Station

2024-04-24 19:02:00


Addicts deal medical heroin at Zurich main station, which they obtain legally from the drug distribution point.

«Do you see the people? They have to buy their drugs here on the black market.” Hakan T. is standing on platform 3 at Zurich main station. The addict talks about an open drug scene in front of our eyes – while children, workers and tourists walk by. Deals are being made here on platform 3 – with Diaphin. This is medical heroin. For non-addicts, even the smallest amounts can be fatal. “A lot of people have died because of this tablet,” says Hakan T.

The diaphine is legally given to serious heroin addicts just a few meters away from platform 3 at the ARUD drug distribution point – often for several days. The addicts receive pure, medical heroin instead of the diluted heroin from the alley. For Thilo Beck, co-head of psychiatry at ARUD, the gift model is a success: “It is one of the most effective therapies. In doing so, we achieve an improvement in health and a reduction in the risk of death.”

Hakan T. has also already received diaphine as a replacement for street heroin. He knows: Many people continue to sell dipahin on the black market – even though it is banned. “Everyone really does that.” Many addicts confirmed the trade on platform 3 to the “Rundschau”. The Zurich cantonal police, who are responsible for security at the main train station, also know about the trade.

Money for cocaine

The research shows: Addicts come by again and again and offer diaphine: “Do you want a diaphine?” A tablet costs 20 francs on the black market. Hakan T. admits: He has also sold diaphine. “That’s how I was able to finance my drug use because I didn’t have any other money.” Heroin addicts apparently use diaphine sales to get money for other drugs – often cocaine, which they use to make crack and freebase.

Before the corona pandemic, the delivery only took place for several days in rare cases. In the wake of the pandemic, the conditions for dispensing diaphine were relaxed – today around 450 people in Zurich receive their diaphine for several days. Surveys by the Zurich City Police show: Since the corona pandemic, more than twice as much diaphine has been seized every year than before.

Criticism of the gift

However, in other dispensing points diaphine is dispensed under stricter conditions than in Zurich. ARUD psychiatrist Thilo Beck believes criticism of the loose practice of giving donations is inappropriate. “We know that most people use their medication very correctly and responsibly. Only a small proportion have difficulties.”

If diaphine administration were restricted, the majority of patients would be penalized. “It’s about providing people with chronic illnesses with the best possible support and giving them as much autonomy as possible.” Beck goes even further and requests diaphine for up to a month.

Hakan T. has been taking drugs since he was 18 years old. He worries about young people who simply receive diaphine on platform 3 and end up forever addicted to drugs. “Young people take diaphine as their first drug. I was shocked when I saw their young faces.” Thilo Beck from ARUD emphasizes: “We are doing everything possible to avoid this. But a residual risk remains.”

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