Tony Newman at 646-335-5384
Ken Jones, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) in the U.K., made headlines last weekend by recommending that heroin be prescribed for people with long term addiction problems.
Jones asserted that prescribing heroin would both reduce crime and lower the number of overdose deaths, a claim backed by scientific studies in several countries. The Netherlands and Switzerland have both experimented with prescribed heroin and reported reductions in crime as a result. A recent heroin prescription trial in Germany resulted in reduced illicit drug use and better overall health among its participants. Overdose deaths dropped during the trial as well. Heroin availability in Germany, which was set to expire in June, has now been extended.
“It’s easy to see why police chiefs outside the United States support heroin maintenance,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of Drug Policy Alliance, the nation’s leading organization promoting alternatives to the war on drugs. “It cuts crime, reduces black markets and works better than anything else for some heroin addicts. It’s a shame that police chiefs in this country don’t have the guts to speak out like their counterparts elsewhere.”
The U.K. is currently conducting a trial of its own, prescribing heroin to hundreds of people under the name of diamorphine. ACPO, an independent strategic body with considerable influence over U.K. police policy, has said it will not make an official recommendation on prescribed heroin until the results of this trial are in, in 2008 at the earliest. However, Jones is the latest in a series of law enforcement officials who have individually spoken in support of prescribing heroin.
According to Danny Kushlick, director of the Transform Drug Policy Foundation in the U.K., the major obstacle to support for prescribing heroin there is the medical community. Doctors see heroin prescribing as an expensive measure that should not be embraced when there is still work to be done on the current preferred treatment approach of prescribing methadone.
However, the point of heroin prescribing would be to target people who have not had success with other forms of treatment, including methadone. Heroin prescription would make the drug available for people who commit crimes for the money to buy heroin on the street.