France to test launch 'shooting galleries' for drug users

France's Socialist government plans to test launch a series of "shooting galleries" by the end of the year where addicts can inject illegal drugs under medical supervision, the health minister said.

"I hope that these experiments will be announced before the end of the year," Minister Marisol Touraine said Sunday on BFMTV, adding that a number of municipalities had agreed to host such sites.

Already in place in a number of European countries including Britain and Germany, the centres would provide sterile needles and medical oversight for injectors of heroin and other illegal drugs.

The idea quickly came under fire from France's right-wing opposition, with former education minister Luc Chatel calling it "irresponsible".

"This would be sending the wrong signal to our country's young people," he told Canal Plus television. "I find it very worrying this is coming from the health minister, who is there to protect the French and young people."

But Jean-Marie Le Guen, a Socialist lawmaker for Paris, hailed the project.

"This courageous decision will allow France to equip itself with an effective additional tool to reduce the risks" for drug users, he said in a statement.