The Swiss Federal Office of Public Health issued a Report today which included the results of an experimental heroin prescription program. The report found that crime dropped by 60%, unemployment among participants fell by half, and the general and nutritional health of participants improved rapidly during the prescription program. The program, which began in January 1994 and continued through December 1996, eventually prescribed heroin to over 800 heroin addicts in 15 cities.
“This report proves that heroin maintenance is a feasible option for cities trying to reduce the harm associated with heroin addiction,” said Dr. Ethan Nadelmann, Director of the Lindesmith Center, a drug policy research think tank. “As the U.S. and other countries consider alternatives to treating heroin addiction, it is critical that all options, including the prescription of heroin and other drugs, are considered as viable means to reducing crime and improving public health.”
- Specific results of the report include:
- Both the number of offenders and the number of criminal offenses decreased by about 60% during the first six months of treatment.
- Most Illicit drug use, including that of cocaine, rapidly and markedly declined, whereas benzodiazepine use decreased only slowly and alcohol and cannabis consumption hardly declined at all.
- The number of participants unemployed fell by more than half (from 44% to 20%).
- Participants’ housing situation rapidly improved (in particular, there were no longer any homeless).
- Physical health improved during treatment in (in physical terms, this relates especially to general and nutritional status and injection-related skin diseases.)
- More than half of the psrogram drop outs switched to another form of treatment, including abstinence.
- Court convictions decreased significantly (according to the central criminal register.)
- One third of patients who, on admission, were dependent on welfare required no further support. On the other hand, others who were dependent on illicit income turned to welfare support.
- Retention rate in the study, 89% over a period of 6 months and 69% over a period of 18 months, proved to be above average when compared with other treatment programs for heroin dependents.
- No disturbance of note was caused to the local neighborhoods, or if so only temporarily.
A summary of the report is available on this Web site.