Germany Approves Prescribing Synthetic Heroin to Long-time Users Unable to Quit

Press Release May 27, 2009
Media Contact

Tony Newman at (646)335-5384 or Ethan Nadelmann at (646)335-2240

The German Parliament today approved a new law that will allow doctors to prescribe synthetic heroin to people with long-term drug addictions in an effort to reduce crime, overdose deaths and the spread of HIV.

The new law allows people over 23, who have used heroin or other opioid drugs illegally for more than five years, and have failed at other rehab programs to receive pharmaceutical heroin in specialized treatment centers. The legislation follows a pilot project conducted in seven German cites between 2002 and 2006 that proved successful in reducing crime, HIV and overdose fatalities among people who had failed in previous efforts to quit heroin.

The German results were consistent with those of similar projects in Canada, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Last year Switzerland similarly legalized heroin prescription in a public referendum.

Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance issued this statement:

“The success of the German heroin prescription projects, combined with similar results in other countries, leaves little question that heroin prescription could reduce crime, HIV and overdose fatalities in the United States as well. And today’s vote in Germany, combined with similar evidence of public support in other countries shows that the public will support even controversial drug policies when they are given a chance to prove themselves.”

“There is no question that heroin prescription programs are needed and long overdue in this country. All that stands in the way is politics and the backward assumption that it can never happen in the United States.”

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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