Friday, June 02, 2006

The Independent recommends liberalising drug laws

British leftwing paper The Independent had a headline today "Heroin. The solution?"
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It reports on an article in the Lancet published yesterday claims that Britain’s tough on drugs programme is failing and the UK has the highest rate of drug related deaths in Europe (2500 a year). It recommends “medicalising” the taking of heroin which it says has resulted in an 82% reduction in new users of heroin in Zurich.
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In Zurich the policy provides:
- Needle exchange;
- Oral Methadone on prescription;
- Heroin on prescription;
- Safe houses for those wanting to inject.
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The result is that the glamour of heroin dissipates, as it is seen as something people do out of medical addiction rather than desire. It is hardly sexy and rebellious to shoot up with addicts in a safe house, and demand for high price illegally supplied heroin has dried up. Those who need it no longer resort to crime to feed their addiction, and the drug industry is no longer criminal. The needle exchange reduces disease transmission, methadone provides a safer fix and prescribing heroin means it is safer drug (as it is not “ bulked up” with agents that are toxic).
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Zurich also reclassified cannabis as a drug so that policing resources were moved away from policing users to suppliers.
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A 4% per annum reduction in drug users over 11 years is reported.
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The Tories have said they will look into it. It's not libertarian, but it is a step in the right direction. If the point of drug policy is to improve outcomes, then it is clear that prohibition isn't working.
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However, don't expect Helen Clark or Don Brash to warm to this - they each will have the braying banality of Jim Anderton and Peter Dunne peddling the same failed ideas - the ones that have worked nowhere.

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