The Swiss government is trying to fight heroin drug addiction by directly providing the horse to the addicts.
GENEVA (AP) – Dr. Daniele Zullino keeps glass bottles full of white powder in a safe in a locked room of his office. Patients show up each day to receive their treatment in small doses handed through a small window.
Then they gather around a table to shoot up, part of a pioneering Swiss program to curb drug abuse by providing addicts a clean, safe place to take heroin produced by a government-approved laboratory.
The program has been criticized by the United States and the U.N. narcotics board, which said it would fuel drug abuse. But governments as far away as Australia are beginning or considering their own programs modeled on the system, which is credited with reducing crime and improving the health and daily lives of addicts.
Swiss voters are expected to make the system permanent Sunday in a referendum prompted by a challenge from conservatives. The heroin program has won wide support within Switzerland since it was begun 14 years ago to eliminate scenes of large groups of drug users shooting up openly in parks that marred Swiss cities in the 1980s and 1990s.
In 2003, the BMJ reported on a Netherlands experiment with a “Medical Heroin” program:
Adherence was excellent with 12 month outcome data available for 94% of the randomised participants. With intention to treat analysis, 12 month treatment with heroin plus methadone was significantly more effective than treatment with methadone alone in the trial of inhalable heroin (response rate 49.7% v 26.9%; difference 22.8%, 95% confidence interval 11.0% to 34.6%) and in the trial of injectable heroin (55.5% v 31.2%; difference 24.3%, 9.6% to 39.0%). Discontinuation of the coprescribed heroin resulted in a rapid deterioration in 82% (94/115) of those who responded to the coprescribed heroin. The incidence of serious adverse events was similar across treatment conditions.
Conclusions: Supervised coprescription of heroin is feasible, more effective, and probably as safe as methadone alone in reducing the many physical, mental, and social problems of treatment resistant heroin addicts.
Isn’t it better to medically help addicts — even if it means prescribing them the very drugs they are addicted to in order to wean them off the substance — than, say, punishing them with incarceration for an addiction they cannot heal or help on their own?
With half of the prison population in the United States dependent on drugs when incarcerated, don’t we owe it to the rest of us to help clean the criminal element from the very means of their ability to break the law?