Europe: Germany Plans to Provide Free Heroin to Long-Term Addicts 5/5/06

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The German government announced Tuesday that, given the success of pilot heroin maintenance programs in seven cities, it will expand the program to supply between 1,000 and 1,500 German heroin addicts. That is still a small percentage of the estimated 120,000 current heroin users in the country, but will be roughly twice the number receiving the drug under the pilot programs.

heroin injection
Germany began the pilot programs in 2001 in an experiment to see if they could help hard-core addicts get off the drug, reduce their levels of criminality, and reduce overdose deaths and disease. Now, the Germans have decided the experiment was a success.

"A heroin therapy is the last hope and provides help for survival for some of those who are addicted," said government commissioner for substance abuse Sabine Baetzing. "It can improve their health and stabilize their social situation," Baetzing told the newspaper Die Welt.

Baetzing said the pilot projects had shown that given hard-core addicts heroin at taxpayer expense was a more effective way of getting them off the drug than methadone and that heroin therapy also led to a reduction in criminal acts by participants.

Baetzing is a member of the center-left Social Democrats, who are junior partners in a coalition with the conservative Christian Democrats. But she said she thought the government would agree to the plan.

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Issue #434 -- 5/5/06

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