Europe: British Heroin Maintenance Program to Expand 4/29/05

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A British program that provides free heroin to addicts is set to expand in June, the National Health Service's Treatment Agency announced last week. In an ongoing pilot program, some 450 heroin users who have not responded to methadone or other treatments currently receive the drug. If that initial run is evaluated as being a success, the number receiving prescription heroin could nearly double, an agency spokesman said.

The British government has responded to advice from its own drug experts that similar heroin maintenance programs in Switzerland and Holland have significantly reduced drug-related crime and other social problems. A similar experimental program is now underway in Canada, with addicts in Vancouver already receiving maintenance doses and the program set to expand to Montreal and Toronto.

In addition to 450 people receiving prescription heroin, the ongoing trials include another 3,000 who are receiving methadone. According to the National Health Service, there are 56,000 registered heroin users in Britain, but independent drug experts, such as Drugscope say the actual number of addicts is closer to 200,000.

Participants begin with oral methadone, and if that fails to reduce user criminality, injection methadone is the next step. If that, too, fails, heroin injections are prescribed, along with counseling.

"The majority of patients on substitution medication get oral methadone," said an agency spokesman. "What we are suggesting is that, if that is not working, we may need to look at other forms of treatment. That could be a different dose of methadone. It could be injectable methadone or some may benefit from treatment with injectable heroin. There may be an increase in the numbers receiving injectable heroin, but we are talking about hundreds not thousands."

In the 1970s, as much as 20% of heroin addicts were prescribed heroin under NHS auspices, but that withered away under attacks from prohibitionists. Now, once again, the tide may be turning.

Visit http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/Misc/60minliv.htm and http://www.drcnet.org/guide2-95/liverpool.html for background on past UK heroin maintenance programs.

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Issue #384 -- 4/29/05

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Editorial: Pointlessness | Feature: In Civil Obedience Campaign, Hungarian Drug Users Turn Themselves In | Feature: Marijuana Research Grow Effort Heads for DEA Hearing | Feature: The North American Syringe Exchange Convention | DRCNet Interview: Ten Years of Organizing Hard Drug Users -- Ann Livingston of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users | Announcement: DRCNet/Perry Fund Event to Feature US Rep. Jim McDermott, June 1 in Seattle | Weekly: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories | Bad Cops II: South Texas Drug Task Force Fights Dirty | Prisons: US Inmate Population Continues to Swell, Now at 2.1 Million | Drug Czar: Walters Under Attack By Prohibitionists | Marijuana March: Global March May 7 in More Than 180 Cities | Holland: Ministers Squabble Over Cannabis -- One Calls For Legalization, Has Public Opinion on His Side | Europe: British Heroin Maintenance Program to Expand | India: Crackdown on Opium Growers Spurs Confusion, Protests in Karnataka | Weekly: This Week in History | Events: MPP Galas Next Week and the Following | Weekly: The Reformer's Calendar

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