No fewer than six randomised controlled trials – in Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Canada, and England – concluded that heroin assisted treatment is more effective than conventional treatments in a subgroup of heroin users.
William Patey, British ambassador to Afghanistan from 2010-2012
25 June 2014
When Tony Blair deployed British troops in Afghanistan, ending the illicit production and supply of opium was cited as a key objective. In 2001 the prime minister linked heroin use in the UK with opium cultivation in Afghanistan. Yet after 10 years of effort with tens of thousands of troops in the country, and having spent billions trying to reduce poppy cultivation, Afghans are growing more opium than ever before. For the sake of both Afghans and British citizens, politicians must take responsibility for the failings of global prohibition, and take control of the drug trade through legal regulation.
One of Northern Ireland's most senior drugs workers has said that class A drugs like heroin should be decriminalised, regulated and made available on prescription. "I think the impact of decriminalising, of regulating, of taking this activity out of the hands of organised crime, is the way to improve our society right now," said Michael Foley, the head of the Belfast Trust's Drug Outreach Team.
The Norwegian government it wants to decriminalise the inhalation of heroin, a method considered less dangerous than injecting it, to reduce the number of overdoses in the country. The move would make smoking heroin an offense on par with injecting, which is illegal in Norway but tolerated. Oslo's municipality operates a site where heroin addicts can inject drugs under safer, more hygienic circumstances.
Staff at Copenhagen’s first legal drug injection room have saved 30 lives since it opened last autumn, according to metroXpress newspaper.The deputy mayor for social affairs, Mikkel Warming (Enhedslisten), contends that the success of the injection room should be expanded across the city. The deputy mayor, however, is not likely to get the Konservative party to support the move. Konservative's legal spokesperson, Tom Behnke would rather introduce prescription heroin and increase efforts to rehabilitate addicts.
The face of heroin use in America has changed utterly. Forty or fifty years ago heroin addicts were overwhelmingly male, disproportionately black, and very young. Most came from poor inner-city neighbourhoods. These days, the average user looks different. More than half are women, and 90% are white. The drug has crept into the suburbs and the middle classes. And although users are still mainly young, the age of initiation has risen: most first-timers are in their mid-20s. The spread of heroin to a new market of relatively affluent, suburban whites has allowed the drug to make a comeback, after decades of decline.
Some European countries prescribe heroin for the most severe cases of addiction. Patients taking heroin are less likely to use illicit drugs and drop out of treatment than those who use methadone, a substitute. Vancouver’s eagerness to follow is not surprising. It has long had Canada’s most liberal drug policies, and it has a big problem. Addicts congregate in Downtown Eastside, two derelict blocks right next to tourist attractions and the financial district. In the late 1990s the city had the highest rate of HIV infection outside sub-Saharan Africa.
The abject drug misery that held sway at Zurich’s Platzspitz park, known popularly as “Needle Park”, spurred Switzerland in 1993 to opt for a pragmatic drug policy of distributing medically controlled heroin to therapy-resistant addicts. In the mid-1990s, the project to provide opiate-assisted treatment for hardcore addicts was formally evaluated and the results appeared promising. The addicts were doing better in terms of health and social issues, and drug-related crime had decreased.
If you’ve ever had surgery, you owe a debt to heroin-assisted therapy, and not because you were probably doped up on morphine in post-op. Rather, it’s because of William Halsted. Appointed the first chief of surgery of Johns Hopkins in 1889, the man now known as “the father of surgery” proceeded to revolutionize the craft during his more than 30-year career. Mr. Halsted introduced the use of surgical gloves and complete sterility, performed the first radical mastectomy and developed new stomach and intestinal surgeries. And one more thing: During his entire time at Johns Hopkins, Mr. Halsted injected himself with morphine on a daily basis.