Europe: Give Addicts Prescription Heroin, Says British Police Commander

Heroin addicts should be prescribed the drug through the National Health Service (NHS) to reduce crime, a senior British police officer told a conference of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) this week. The forthright advice came from Nottinghamshire Police Deputy Chief Constable Howard Roberts, who is vice-chairman of the ACPO drugs committee.

The remarks came as ACPO considers whether to seek changes in British drug policy and amidst news reports that some 150 heroin addicts are already receiving prescription diamorphine (heroin) from NHS. Roberts made clear he was expressing his personal opinion, not speaking for ACPO.

"We should actively consider prescribing diamorphine, pharmaceutical heroin, to those seriously addicted to heroin as part of a treatment program for addiction," he said in comments reported by ITV News. "My motives for making such a statement are frankly this: there is an undeniable link between addicted offenders and appalling levels of criminality, as heroin and crack cocaine addicts commit crime from burglary to robbery, to sometimes murder, to get the money to buy drugs to satisfy their addiction. The resulting misery to society is huge."

According to the Home Office, heroin addicts commit 432 crimes a year, Roberts noted. "Therefore the logic is clear, I suggest, that we take highly addicted offenders out of committing crime to feed their addiction, into closely supervised treatment programs that, as part of the program, can prescribe diamorphine," said Roberts.

Roberts' comments won the immediate support of the think tank DrugScope, whose chief executive, Martin Barnes, said: "We support calls for the extension of heroin prescribing, which for some problem drug users can be an extremely effective form of drug treatment. It can have immediate health benefits for the drug user and can for some be the best route to becoming drug-free. There is compelling evidence that heroin prescribing, although more expensive than some forms of drug treatment, is cost-effective in reducing drug-related crime and other costs to communities."

But there is no word yet on whether the British government or the ACPO will be as enthusiastic.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Change?

I thought they already do that in Britain. How much "extension" is being considered?

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