A leading Scottish National
Party (SNP) drug authority is preparing the case for his party to become
the first mainstream political party in the United Kingdom to call for
the prescription of heroin to addicts, the London Sunday Times reported.
Brian Adam, co-covener of the Scottish parliament's committee on drug and
alcohol use, said the use of methadone is creating a generation of zombies
who never get off opiates.
According to the Scottish
Executive, as the executive branch of the Scottish government is known,
there are some 20,000 people receiving government-supplied methadone in
Scotland. The announcement of those figures last week provoked attacks
on the government by the Tories and doubtless influenced the timing of
Adam's remarks to the Times. Tory spokesmen said the numbers showed
"the true extent of Scotland's drug crisis" and complained about junkies
getting their "daily fix" of methadone in perpetuity at government expense.
But the Scottish Executive
responded tartly. "It is time we ended the unhelpful obsession in
trying to prove whether abstinence or harm reduction strategies are best,"
said a spokesman. "The most effective treatment will always depend
on the circumstances of the individual addict; there is no 'one size fits
The Executive's position
suggests an openness to ideas like prescription heroin, and the SNP leadership
told the Times it has an open mind on the issue. The SNP's Adam is
prepared to put both to the test. A biochemist and toxicologist,
he said the status quo was failing thousand of Scots addicts. "Ministers
should consider following the example of other countries and look at taking
the radical step of prescribing heroin to addicts so that they can be gradually
weaned off it and eventually beat their addiction," he said.
"We need to look at the alternative
methods such as treatment with heroin itself. The international evidence
from Switzerland and the Netherlands suggests that heroin is more effective
in getting people weaned off their addiction than methadone."
In response to Adam's suggestion,
the SNP said it would consider it. "Heroin addiction is a serious
problem in Scotland and the solutions that have worked overseas should
be examined in a Scottish context," a spokesman told the Times.
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