Prescribe heroin to more addicts – Police Chief

Ken Jones, the Head of the Association of Chief Police Officers, has called for more heroin addicts to be prescribed heroin on the NHS. He believes it will reduce crime and deaths by overdose. Since the 1920’s prescription has been part of the UK’s strategy against heroin, however, this has reduced since the 1960’s with a shift to methadone. Wider prescription is presently followed in Switzerland and the Netherlands but targeted at those for whom abstinence and methadone programmes have failed. However, General Practitioners are opposed on medical and practical grounds. They worry about perpetuating addiction and the high costs of prescription bring into question its cost effectiveness and raise budget issues. In Northern Ireland south Belfast and Ballymena have the highest number of heroin addicts with the strategy emphasis upon harm reduction.

  • mickhall

    Is it not a strange world we live in, when one finds police officers far more compassionate; and willing to try innovative methods than politicians or members of the medical profession. The ending of treating drug addicts by what was called the ‘English method’ [prescribing heroin etc] has had disastrous consequences not only for addicts but society as a whole.

    Fair deal is mistaken in his claim that it is GPs alone who are against prescribing heroin to addicts, true being the cowardly creatures that many GPs are, they prefer to neglect their patients needs by their refusal to treat addicts, knowing full well their patients will continue to inject cut and illegal drugs, whereas if they were willing to prescribe pharmaceutical narcotics they would at least be able to get their health and life back on track.

    However this disgraceful attitude has come about due to decades of pressure from the DoH and the NHS methadone mafia, coupled with the BMA targeting any doctors who act in a sympathetic manner to patients who have become addicted to narcotics. Thus few GPs are willing to treat patients who are drug addicts, due to fear of coming under close scrutiny from the BMA ethics committee, that is the black and white of it.

    Cost is a red herring not least due to the enormous cost to the tax payer that the destructive nature of illegal drugs inflicts on society as a whole. Even if you put this to one side, there is absolutely no reason why an addict who has a legal supply of narcotics could not hold down a job, indeed that they eventually do so should be written into a contract they sign before they are given a harm reduction prescription.

    Once at work they would be able and indeed should cover the cost of their weekly prescription, on average I estimate this would be approx £50 per week for a Heroin prescription, the NHS would cover the cost of the doctors time.

    Finally one of the major problems with the treatment of drug addicts is that the NHS treatment mafia have convinced politicians, society and a good few addicts that they are all, mad, sad or bad. No one claims that people who are addicted to nicotine fall into this category, [nor do they expect society to cover the cost of their habit, hence my suggestion about narcotic addicts financing their own prescriptions] as it would be both untrue and silly, yet they are suffering from an addiction to a powerful drug just like Heroin Addicts, the only differences being theirs is not illegal to purchase. Hence the only sensible policy is to provide heroin addicts with a self financing prescription. I could add a lot more about how this could be administered etc but space and time closes in.

  • Fraggle

    “a good few addicts that they are all, mad, sad or bad. No one claims that people who are addicted to nicotine fall into this category, [nor do they expect society to cover the cost of their habit,”

    Don’t agree with this at all. Smoking is increasingly becoming seen as an anti-social activity and will soon be banned in public places. Besides, the view that a heroin addict is either mad, bad or sad is a reasonable one. For a start, heroin is illegal (bad). You’d have to be a bit stupid or mad not to know the damage heroin addiction can do to your life. The consequences aren’t a closely guarded secret. Who can claim not to know about the risks of AIDS for example?
    Also, you obviously aren’t aware that nicotine replacement therapy, a direct analogue of opiate replacement, is available on NHS prescriptions and medical card prescriptions down south.

    Myself, I would like to see more use made of buprenorphine.

    I would love to see unionist politicians condemning their drug-dealing marching buddies as much as they bang on about the IRA. These scum-bags are causing more damage to their community than a load of IRA bombs ever could. Who cares if Sinn Fein accept policing if unionists kick up a fuss whenever a loyalist drug-dealing gang has a meeting disrupted by the PSNI?

  • marty (not ingram)

    I wasn’t aware that there was a heroin problem in south Belfast. All those people on the Malone Road trying to block out their new rates & water bills :O)

    Seriously though, fair_deal, do you have any stats for South Belfast?

  • andy

    Great idea. Never saw the point of using methadone. Although I shall now look up “buprenorphine”.

    I think prescriptions should be charged for though. It will still be cheaper than buying it off mr smack -dealer so the the addicts would still go for it.
    There are also some social equity issues – why should the taxpayers pay for some people’s drugs but not others etc..

    I’ve only known two heroin addicts in my life. FWIW I would have described both as intelligent people and held down reasonably responsible jobs. Both of them actually said it was cheaper than drinking….

  • marty (not ingram)

    Andy,
    that reminds me of this report from a few years back (apologies if I muck the link up) –

    ‘Safe Heroin use’ study criticised

  • marty (not ingram)

    Gah – I did muck it up.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,1405476,00.html

  • I’m very happy to condemn any drug-dealing scum in the loyalist paramilitaries.

    Returning to the story, it speaks volumes about the moral decay within police circles that someone like Ken Jones is calling for the state, in effect, to become a drug pusher. Drugs are abhorrent, period. But authority is simply not prepared to take moralistic positions, mostly because many of those in the political and opinion-forming elites are compromised by their own cannabis-taking past. Not believing all illegal drug-taking to be inherently wrong, they are therefore reluctant to enforce the law rigidly against harder drugs.

    What’s more, at a time when sufferers of Alzheimers and cancer sometimes find it difficult to get hold of the latest treatments on cost grounds, how can anyone justify spending a fortune on people who recklessly, stupidly and indeed wickedly have brought about their own wretched condition?

  • andy

    Marty (not I)
    thanks. Quite interesting. Predictable reaction I think.

    Watchman
    Why is all illegal drug taking inherently wrong?

    Do you think that all risky behaviour (presumably including eating fatty foods over long periods, contact sports, rock climbing, flying etc) is wrong?
    I doubt you would have thought drinking alcohol if you were in the US was not more immoral in 1921 as it had been in 1918.

    I take your point on the cost though (hence they should pay for prescriptions) – and the fact addicts have to take responsibility

  • andy

    sorry
    should be:
    “I doubt you would have thought drinking alcohol in the US was more immoral in 1921 then it had been in 1918.”

  • fair_deal

    Marty

    The ranking of Ballymena and south Belfast is based on the registered drug users figures. In 2005 there were in the South and East Trust area, 65 registered users. In Homefirst Trust (aka Ballymena) it was 95 registered users. About two-thirds of registered drug users are heroin users.

  • mickhall

    Andy,

    When you say Drug Addicts must take responsibility for their addiction you are spot on, and it is one of the reasons that I say Addicts once they are in a position to do so should pay for the cost of their prescribed medication. The main reason why I oppose the bad mad or sad theory about drug addicts so vigorously, is it gives addicts a cop out. How often have we heard an addict up before the courts claim they committed some god awful crime because they are an addict. They then prattle on with some sad tale about their childhood whatever. Never taking any responsibility for their own behavior, let alone considering the pain they have inflicted on others.

    The first thing any addict must do is take responsibility for their addiction, once they do that society has a responsibility to help them to do some thing about it, and help them to get back on the straight and narrow. Stopping taking narcotics is not a walk in the park and some people may never manage to achieve this, whilst for others it may take some considerable time. What all DA can do is, with help and decent legislation take control of their addiction. Once an addicts addiction is under control, anything is possible.

    “Drugs are abhorrent, period” How many times have we all heard this, it is absolutely nonsense. Take heroin, it is regarded by almost all doctors who work in the field of palliative care as the best drug by miles. There is no better drug to treat people with a painful terminal illness etc. Indeed its only drawback is it is not long lasting, but this has been overcome by the use of pumps etc. When I was a child people who were dieing of diseases such as cancer left this earth in a valley of tears. To day in hospices and homes throughout the UK and Ireland they die with dignity thanks to smack, the brown stuff, although of course we call it dia-morphine.

    To condemn Ken Jones is just to easy and dam right wrong, for do not forget it is his officers who pick up the corpses and are at the sharp end of prohibition and the just say no brigade. That it takes a senior police officer to open a debate about whether heroin should be prescribed to drug addicts, just about sums up how useless, cowardly and conformist our politicians are. Whether they be Unionist, Republican, nationalist, Labour or Tory.

    In truth any politician who prattles on about the evils of drugs and the wickedness of drug dealers should be banned from office as an ill informed nincompoop. Most street level drug dealers are the children of the likes of you and I, and I have already dealt with the foolishness of any talk about the evils of drugs. As to a war on drugs, fine if you wish to go to war with your own children and the society they live in, thankfully there are more thoughtful people about, not least Ken Jones-plod, although sadly I doubt those who should know better are listening.

  • Andy,

    It is immoral to take recreational drugs with known dangerous effects to the human brain (and probably some worse effects yet to be discovered). It is immoral to act in such a fashion because of the effect that drug use has on your nearest and dearest. Finally it is immoral because, if as a result of your experimentation and your licentiousness you get hooked on something horrible, people like me have to pick up the tab through our hard-earned taxes, higher insurance premiums or just our own quality of life.

    By the way, Mick Hall, my position is not conformist in the slightest. Given that the chief peelers and the political and media elites are all happy to see drug laws watered down in the name of “harm reduction”, I think my view is the odd one out in the present debate. And yes, I’d quite happily stick young dealers, even nice middle class ones, into Maghaberry for a few years without remission if it teaches them a lesson and warns others off from the same route.

    That’s not too extreme – I hear in China they solved their drugs problem by rounding up 6000 dealers and putting a bullet into the back of their heads.

  • nmc

    Watchman, who sets the moral bar? Your view is ‘the odd one out’ so perhaps the moral views of the majority would serve?

    The effect on the nearest and dearest is caused by a lack of clinical heroine. It is because it is sold by scumbags who cut their drugs with drain cleaner that people become ill. It is because of the expense that theft is caused. If the heroione is dished out by the government it will dispose of these problems. As for the cost issue, as has been said above, let them pay for their clinical quality drugs, at no cost to you or I.

    As for the young dealers in Maghaberry, there wouldn’t be any. Not much of a market for poor quality illegal drugs, when you can buy good quality legal drugs. This approach would actually put money in your pocket, saving money through jail space.

    I grew up in Ballymena, and know many heroine users, including from my own family. I believe that this approach would help people. Don’t get me wrong the drug is a scourge. It makes people extremely anti-social, (I once went on holidays with a user, it sucked big time). But it is precisely these views that make me think that government prescribed drugs is the answer.

  • Fraggle

    To Martin, remember south Belfast contains areas such as the Village and Donegal Pass where these users likely live.

    Andy, methadone is used for several reasons, firstly, it is orally active, meaning that it reduces the risk injection complications which range from infections to emboli-related amputation. These risks are reduced by legal heroin and needle-exchange schemes but not removed altogether.

    Secondly, the long duration of action means that it can be used with a once daily dosing. This also relates to two of its perceived drawbacks, the grogginess experienced by methadone patients and the lack of the ‘high’ which is propotional to the rate of receptor saturation or onset of action. Methadone just covers the withdrawl but doesn’t give the kick heroin does.

    Buprenorphine is what is known as a partial agonist. Once taken, it will stop withdrawl but it blocks the receptors from the effects of additional heroin. Methadone lacks this additional effect. Interestingly, there is a new smoking cessation product based on the same principal.

    I welcome the watchman’s condemnation of drug-dealers. I am wary of using moralistic language when talking about addicts. The moral argument is all to easy to defeat (alcohol prohibition etc.).

    The rock climbing argument is very dubious Andy. I haven’t got any data on this but I’d be willing to wager that the health status of a random selection of rock climbers would be significantly better than a random selection of heroin addicts. A lot of things in life are dangerous but some things are gratuitously dangerous and heroin addiction is off the scale along with knife-fighting, bear-wrestling and random, unprotected anal-sex. The fatty food argument has merit but the difference is, nobody is going to hold a syringe full of McDonald’s milk-shake to my neck while emptying the till for money to buy more big-macs. See the difference?

  • I’m afraid drugs are a moral issue. Unless you believe that it is wrong to stupefy yourself, then the war against drugs is lost.

    I don’t believe that you will ever solve the drugs problem by turning the state into the biggest pusher of all. First, to decriminalise any conduct tears away any remaining moral stigma. The result would be to increase the volume of soft drug-taking which is very ofen the route to harder drugs. Secondly, I doubt whether people who are addicted to an awful substance like heroin would be in any kind of condition to hold down a job, never mind one that would subsidise their habit. Remember that the poor Ipswich prostitutes ended up on the streets because their heroin addiction meant they couldn’t work in massage parlours.

    nmc talks a lot about supply. In a free market, someone us going to come along and undercut the official government stuff. But why are people not prepared to deal with the demand as well? You could stop much middle class drug-taking, for instance, simply by some exemplary punishments.

    And I don’t agree with Fraggle that the users are not also morally guilty. Where do they think that cannabis or cocaine comes from and who is supplying it down the line? It’s amazing that in some fashionable circles it’s okay to light a spliff and put money into the hands of some hoodlum, but not to have a gas-guzzling car, for instance.

    We have plenty of adequate drug laws. What we don’t have is the will to enforce them.

  • Fraggle

    Watchman, the soft drugs leading to hard drugs line is a myth pushed by the DARE people in the US and has never been proven. This discussion is not about soft drugs but it’s interesting to note that the netherlands consistantly fares better than britain in statistics on drug use.

    The problem with using moralistic language is that one man’s immoral activity is another man’s passtime. There is no agreed standard for what is immoral or not and this renders the concept useless. The entire concept of a drug user being morally guilty is irrelevant because he is only morally guilty from one point of view. I have no problem with people taking drugs but I do have problems with the antisocial activity which can result.

    If you doubt that people who are addicted to heroin are able to hold down jobs, you are sadly misinformed and ignorant about the entire subject. Many addicts have to fit their methadone treatment around their jobs. Some patients remain on opiate replacement for years while starting families and holding down jobs. This is not the case with the majority of heroin users but to it demonstrates the gulf between the real world what some people think goes on.

  • nmc

    I would also add that the free market idea is a problem, simply because illegal drugs are more expensive. This is due to the increased shipping costs, having to hide the drugs inside dummy shipments and bribing Airport workers.

    That aside my main point in all of this, as someone who has dealt with heroine use before, and have seen the devestation of a cold turkey, would be to protect the poor fools that are hooked on that drug.

    Dealers cut their drugs with dangerous substances. They do this simply because they are evil people, it would be no more expensive to cut heroine with ground up vitamin C, but they use Ajax instead. To control heroine through government distribution is to reduce the (relatively few) deaths that happen each year through heroine abuse. It would also cut down on HIV infection through shared needle use.

    I believe that I agree with your ideas on harsh punishment, although only for dealing in hard drugs. (Hash doesn’t count IMHO.)