Heroin on The NHS for Addicts 

Heroin on The NHS for Addicts 
Posted by CN Staff on May 18, 2002 at 20:29:02 PT
By Kamal Ahmed and Martin Bright
Source: Observer UK
Thousands of addicts will be prescribed heroin at GPs' surgeries to tackle Britain's soaring drug addiction rate. The controversial move follows a detailed investigation by the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee. This week it will recommend a nationwide network of 'safe injecting areas', where addicts can use diamorphine, or 'medical heroin', prescribed on the NHS. 
In a move which will be attacked by some members of the medical profession, who say it is not their job to solve the drug problem, the report will say the chaotic lifestyle of Britain's 240,000 heroin addicts has to be addressed. Government sources last night indicated that increased use of diamorphine would be given the go-ahead. The report, which comes at the end of a 10-month investigation, is likely to change the nature of the debate about drugs in Britain. As revealed in The Observer earlier this year, it will also recommend that cannabis is downgraded from a Class B drug to a Class C drug and that ecstasy is moved from a Class A drug to Class B. It will be suggested that rather than simply locking up heroin addicts, they must be allowed to bring their lives under control by being prescribed the drug without having to resort to the criminal underworld. Safe injecting areas, otherwise known as 'shooting galleries', should be set up across the country after pilot schemes to test that they work. Without them, the report will say, Britain will fail to tackle the heroin problem which has seen the number of addicts increase from just 1,000 in 1971. Drugs education must also be boosted and treatment centres given much more cash. The committee heard evidence that billions of pounds of crime is linked to heroin and crack cocaine use. In comparison, the dangers of drugs such as ecstasy and cannabis were far less. The first country to experiment with safe injecting areas was Australia, followed by the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany and Spain. The Australian authorities were condemned by the United Nations for officially condoning drug taking and breaching UN drugs laws. The select committee report is likely to be heavily attacked by drug crime victims. Norman Brennan, director of the Victims of Crime Trust and a friend of Paul and Janet Betts, whose daughter Leah died after taking an ecstasy tablet in 1995, said: 'Why have we allowed ourselves to get to the appalling position of saying that if we can't combat drugs then we have to live with them?' The Home Office has said that it will 'fully appraise' the findings of the report before responding next month. David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, has already signalled that he wants an extension to the prescription of heroin, allowing more licensed GPs to give out diamorphine from December. There are now only 30 in the country, prescribing heroin to about 300 users. The Government wants the number of users to increase to 1,500 as a first stage. The Home Secretary is also likely to lay an order before the House of Commons in June amending the Misuse of Drugs Act so that cannabis can be downgraded. Home Office officials said that reclassifying ecstasy was 'not on the agenda'. Sources have told The Observer that the committee, chaired by the highly respected Labour MP, Chris Mullin, was often split on the liberal tone of the report. Angela Watkinson, a Conservative member of the committee, was so incensed by it that she has refused to sign the final version. David Winnick, a Labour member, wanted to go further but his amendment on legalising cannabis was defeated. Roger Howard, chief executive of the DrugScope charity, said: 'If the committee recommends a move from a punitive drugs policy to a preventative, health-based one, it could be the most important move in 30 years.' The move to diamorphine is likely to boost shares in Powderject, the drugs firm run by Labour Party donor Paul Drayson. It supplies the drug to the NHS. Note: Prescriptions to tackle drug crime  Key report urges 'shooting galleries' Drugs Uncovered: Observer Special --,11908,686419,00.html Source: Observer, The (UK)Author: Kamal Ahmed and Martin BrightPublished: Sunday, May 19, 2002Copyright: 2002 The ObserverContact: letters Articles & Web Site:Drugs Uncovered: Observer UK Britain's Drug Habit To Be Adult About Drugs
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