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The World Can Learn from Switzerland's Drug Policy

In the late 1980s, Switzerland saw a significant increase in injection drug use, and the crime and public health harms that are associated with it under our prohibition system. A new video from the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union features a range of Swiss experts discussing the science-based policies that the country has adopted to deal with those issues, including Professor Ambros Uchtenhagen, head of the first heroin maintenance program in Switzerland; Felix Lengweiler, the chief of security police and policing of narcotics crime at the Zurich City Police; and Uwe Serduelt, deputy director, Centre of Research on Direct Democracy at the Zurich University.

The video's release coincides with a new report on the subject by the Open Society Institute, Read From the Mountaintops: What the World Can Learn from Drug Policy Change in Switzerland.

Swiss Drug Policy Should Serve As Model: Experts

Location: 
Switzerland
Switzerland's innovative policy of providing drug addicts with free methadone and clean needles has greatly reduced deaths while cutting crime rates and should serve as a global model, health experts said. Countries whose drug policy remains focused on punishing offenders, including Russia and much of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, should learn from a Swiss strategy based on "harm reduction" that protects both users and communities, they said.
Publication/Source: 
Reuters
URL: 
http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE69O3VI20101025

Doctor Calls Ontario's Methadone Program Oppressive and Discriminatory

Location: 
ON
Canada
A Toronto doctor says Ontario's methadone program for addicts is "oppressive" in the way it discriminates against patients and forces them to give up their privacy. Patients who are prescribed methadone for addiction to drugs such as heroin or morphine are shackled to the health-care system and must sign away their privacy rights in exchange for treatment, Dr. Philip Berger told a legislative committee.
Publication/Source: 
Winnipeg Free Press (Canada)
URL: 
http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/life/health/doctor-calls-ontarios-methadone-program-oppressive-and-discriminatory-105215519.html

FDA Approves Once-A-Month Injectable Drug to Fight Opiate Addiction

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced Tuesday that it had approved a once-a-month injectable drug for use in treating opiate addiction. The drug, marketed as Vivitrol, is a form of naloxone, an opioid atagonist that blocks the action of opioids on brain cells and is currently used in responding to overdoses.

In approving Vivitrol, the FDA cited a Russian study with 250 heroin addicts that found it reduces relapse rates and blocks cravings for narcotics. In that study, after six months, 86% of subjects taking Vivitrol had stayed off opiates and were functioning in work or school, compared to only 57% who were given a placebo.

Unlike methadone and buprenorphine, which are commonly used in opiate substitution treatments, Vivitrol is not addictive and does not maintain opiate dependency. Additionally, unlike those two substitutes, Vivitrol does not need to be taken daily, but is instead administered monthly via intramuscular injection.

The approval of Vivitrol for opiate addiction is "an important turning point in our approach to treatment," said Dr. Nora Volkow, head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in a statement greeting the FDA announcement.

Nearly 810,000 Americans are addicted to heroin, with more than twice that number using prescription opioids, such as Oxycontin and Vicodin, for non-prescription purposes, Volkow noted.

Washington, DC
United States

FDA Appoves Drug to Treat Heroin, Morphine Addiction

The Food and Drug Administration has approved an injectable drug designed to treat people addicted to opiates who have undergone detoxification treatment. Vivitrol, made by Massachusetts drug maker Alkermes, is a so-called extended-release formulation of the drug naltrexone that is injected once a month into the muscle, according to an FDA statement. The drug works to block opioid receptors in the brain.
Publication/Source: 
All Headline News (FL)
URL: 
http://www.allheadlinenews.com/articles/7020200536?FDA%20Appoves%20Drug%20To%20Treat%20Heroin,%20Morphine%20Addiction

Revolutionary New Device Could Help Drug Addicts

Location: 
Researchers at the University of California Los Angeles say they’ve come up with an implanted device that administers the medication buprenorphine, which helps end dependence on heroin and opioids that are found in many prescription painkillers.
Publication/Source: 
WTMA (SC)
URL: 
http://www.wtma.com/rssItem.asp?feedid=116&itemid=29587707

UK: Liberal Democrats Told Drug Policy 'Wrong'

Location: 
United Kingdom
The Liberal Democrats were told that their drug policy is wrong and the party should support the legalization of cannabis and moves to provide pharmaceutical heroin to addicts instead of methadone. Ewan Hoyle, founder of Liberal Democrats for Drug Policy Reform, accused candidates and MPs of being "silent" on drugs since the issue was last discussed at conference in 2002.
Publication/Source: 
The Press Association (UK)
URL: 
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ukpress/article/ALeqM5jxlgY74TbfECJl5ClfDYmCD9zfkw

Cambodia Opens First Methadone Clinic

The Cambodian Ministry of Health has opened a clinic where people addicted to opiates, primarily heroin, can be administered methadone. The move is a significant departure in a country in which "drug treatment" has typically meant imprisonment, forced labor, and unproven herbal treatments.

Royal Palace, Cambodia (wikimedia.org)
The opening of the clinic is the culmination of years of quiet effort by harm reduction organizations, the BBC reported. Two of those groups, which run outreach programs for drug users, will identify candidates for treatment.

The program is strictly voluntary. Participants will be taken to the clinic for a needs assessment in line with international standards. The clinic is inside a public hospital and run by the Ministry of Health with support from the UN's World Health Organization.

While harm reductionists and public health workers are pleased with the government's new approach, they said more steps need to be taken to shut down the existing, punitive drug treatment centers. But the government says it has no plans to do so.

Read an expose of existing Cambodian drug treatment centers here.

Cambodia

Opioid Dependence Drug Gets Okay for New Delivery Mode

The FDA has approved a new sublingual film formulation of the opioid dependence treatment combination buprenorphrine/naloxone (Suboxone).
Publication/Source: 
MedPage Today (NJ)
URL: 
http://www.medpagetoday.com/ProductAlert/Prescriptions/21990

Swiss Pol Who Probed Secret CIA Prison System Says Legalize Drugs

In an interview Friday with the Austrian newspaper Kurier and reported in the Swiss newspaper Tagesanzeiger, prominent Swiss politician Dick Marty called drug prohibition a failure. Drugs should instead be legalized, taxed and regulated, he said.

Dick Marty
Marty was the state prosecutor in Ticino for 15 years and in 1987 won an award from the International Narcotic Enforcement Officers Association. He was elected to the Swiss Council of State in 1995 and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in 1998. He has hold both positions ever since. Marty gained international prominence when he was appointed by the Council to investigate the collaboration of various European governments in the CIA's secret prison program and issued a damning report in 2006.

Drug prohibition has been "a total bust," Marty said Friday. "It only leads to high prices and corresponding profits for the drug mafia, without diminishing the access to drugs."

Recalling his years as a prosecutor, Marty added that it was only the small-time dealers who got paraded through the courts, while the drug lords were "little bothered" and stayed in luxury hotels. And despite the endless low-level prosecutions, it has never been so easy to get drugs, he added.

Money wasted on enforcing drug prohibition could instead be spent on prevention, and after legalization, governments could control the drug sector through regulation and taxation, as is the case with alcohol and tobacco, Marty said.

Although he conceded that "drug prices will fall" and consumption would rise -- perhaps only temporarily -- if prohibition is ended, Marty said societies must confront the problem of consumption, much as the US did after the end of Alcohol Prohibition. He pointed to a Swiss example, as well: the use of heroin maintenance programs to reintegrate hard-core addicts into the social fabric. "These people are supported medically and they can work again," he said.

Ending prohibition must be a global affair, he said, pointing to the emerging discussion of the theme in Mexico as it is buffeted by prohibition-related violence that has left 28,000 dead in the past 3 ½ years. Still, Marty isn't holding his breath. "Worldwide drug legalization isn't going to happen" in my lifetime, he predicted.

Dick Marty is only 65. Let's see if we can't prove him wrong.

Switzerland

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