Monday, 7 March 2011

Heroin on NHS would save a fortune on crime

The cost to the NHS of the legal and medicinal supply of heroin to users would be a small fraction of the cost to society of the crimes committed to buy it illegally - and purity and strength can be assured along with clean needles and credible advice, which would reduce the risk of further damage to users health.

At a recent Lib Dem conference in Perth, Scotland, , delegates voted for the introduction of “diamorphine maintenance treatment” instead of fines or prison for heroin users, reports The Express.

This is not a new idea, but it makes sense.
In the early 1999's, Dr John Marks conducted authorised trials by supplying heroin to addicts in his area in Merseyside.  It was notable that several problems associated with heroin were eased.  For example, many addicts started taking employment or education;  associated crime fell; the rate of new addicts fell.  Yet, despite its success, the programme was stopped - and within a year many of his clients died, were sent to prison, or took up a life of crime again.

I always find it raises serious questions when Government trials prove such a success but are then stopped and the positive results ignored but nowadays, in the time that our Government both Conservative and Labour chose to ignore the advice of its own panels of experts such as the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) and upgrade the cannabis plant to a class B drug.  They have their own motives.

Problematic drug use and drug users ought to be treated as a health problem, not a legal one.  The prohibition of drugs merely drives the whole culture of drug use underground, straight into the hands of unscrupulous criminal dealers and gangs (even terrorists) that are, in truth, mostly beyond the reaches of the arm of the law, at least until something goes drastically wrong, which is so often does with the hard drugs.

The profit motivation, as is the profit itself, is massive, and so long as prohibition laws enable it, there is an endless cue of people willing to step in to replace the relatively small number of dealers that are caught..

Meanwhile, the vast majority of the "poorer" users and those addicted to hard drugs like heroin are so often forced to resort to crime to raise the funds for their next hit or bear the brunt of withdrawal.

Under the plan, addicts would be given diamorphine – the medical name for heroin – to cut down on deaths from tainted street drugs and deter them from turning to crime or prostitution to feed their habit.
Callum Leslie, the Holyrood candidate for Mid Fife and Glenrothes, said: “For drug offenders, fines and jail time simply don’t work. Controlled diamorphine treatment is a method that works where others fail.”
Last year, at least seven people died after a tainted batch of heroin landed on Scotland’s streets. However, the plan for NHS heroin prescriptions – the motion means that the Lib Dems as a party are now committed to campaigning for the idea – provoked a scathing response.

Conservative leader Annabel Goldie said: “I have never been convinced that state-funded heroin is the answer. There is already an over-reliance on another opiate, methadone, as a treatment. "

But Annabel seems to have ignored the cost to the community of crime committed to raise funds, and the cost to the health of the individual (even to loss of life) through dirty supplies and contaminated needles.   Methadone, however, brings problems of its own and many addicts say it is harder to withdraw from Methadone that it is from heroin.

I am not a supporter of the Lib Dem Party but at least this is one sensible policy they have adopted.  I hope they look at this and reflect on their apparent lack of interest in realising a few of their other policies in particular to take action to bring an immediate halt to victimless users caught in possession of or for cultivating the cannabis plant for their own use.

No comments:

Post a Comment