British Government To Give Free Heroin To Addicts

British Government To Give Free Heroin To Addicts
Posted by CN Staff on December 04, 2002 at 16:53:32 PT
By Mike Wendling, London Bureau Chief
London - Heroin addicts throughout England will be given the drug free through the state-run health service as part of a new government drugs strategy, officials said.About 400 heroin addicts already legally obtain heroin through the National Health Service, but the new plan, announced Tuesday, will introduce prescription programs across England and Wales.
Under the scheme, users will be given clean needles and will be able to shoot up in medically supervised areas. "There will be an increase in the number of heroin users being prescribed the drug, and in the number of licensed general practitioners (able to dispense the drug)," a Home Office spokesman said. "But it will only be given to those who have failed to respond to other treatments, such as methadone. We're talking about a relatively small increase," he said.Health and justice officials rejected calls to set up safe "shooting galleries" where heroin addicts can go to use illegally obtained drugs and obtain information about kicking the habit. "We are not talking about providing facilities for people to inject themselves with drugs they have bought themselves illegally. That's not our policy and we're not going there," said Home Office drugs minister Bob Ainsworth.In addition to the heroin prescription program, Home Secretary David Blunkett pledged to increase anti-drug education, treatment and law enforcement budgets by an additional $740 million per year by April 2005.Drug-addicted suspects caught by police will be given a choice between treatment and jail at their bail hearings, the Home Office said.Officials also promised a greater emphasis on the highest category Class A drugs such as cocaine and heroin.British drug policy received wide attention earlier this year when Blunkett decided to downgrade marijuana from a Class B to a Class C drug, meaning that users caught with small quantities of the drug will be warned by police rather than arrested.At the same time, the Home Office announced that maximum penalties for dealing Class C drugs will increase next year from five to 14 years in prison."All controlled drugs are harmful and will remain illegal," Blunkett said during Tuesday's announcement. "The misery caused by the use of drugs and hard drugs that kill cannot be underestimated." "We will maintain our focus on Class A drugs as they cause the most harm," he said.But the new plan also dropped a previous government target to cut hard drug use in half by 2008. The goal was set by a former government drugs czar, Keith Hellawell, who resigned in protest at the government's decision to downgrade cannabis He has since kept up his criticism of the government's pot policy."David Blunkett is making the signal to young people that it (cannabis) is all right," Hellawell said in an interview with British television after Tuesday's announcement. "He will deny it, but that is the signal." Blunkett said the previous hard drug targets were unachievable and that the government would no longer "pick a figure out of the air.""We know cannabis is dangerous, but it does not lead to the kind of total disintegration of people's lives that heroin, crack and ecstasy do, and we know they kill," he said. The opposition Conservative Party blasted the government for abandoning the goal.Shadow Home Secretary Oliver Letwin said the Conservatives would "look carefully and constructively at the government's plans for the treatment of hard drug addicts, which seem to echo our own proposals.""But we will need to see if they aim for real treatment and rehabilitation or are merely re-announcing existing and inadequate programmes," he said."The fact that the government [has] dropped their targets is an admission of their failure to date," Letwin said.The country's leading drugs charity, DrugScope, also criticized the latest plan. Chief Executive Roger Howard said the government's drugs policy isn't bold enough."Important opportunities to save lives have been missed by refusing to back harm minimization schemes such as safe injecting rooms," Howard said."If we're going to tackle the drugs problem effectively the government has to be bolder," he said.Source: CNSNews.comAuthor: Mike Wendling, London Bureau ChiefPublished: December 04, 2002Copyright: 1998-2002 Cybercast News ServiceContact: shogenson cnsnews.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:U.K. Drug Strategy 2002 Long as Drugs are Illegal Drugs Strategy To Focus on Treatment Britain's Drug Habit To Be Adult About Drugs 
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