Friday, 9 July 2010

Licensing Heroin

300,000 heroin addicts throughout the UK currently commit more than £14 billion of criminal activity each year. Its an extraordinary total. Yet the fact that we measure drug addiction in terms of criminality and economics shows just how far we are from solving it.

In an article from Times 2 today - whose URL I am unable to link to because (a) you now need to subscribe for online content and (b) I read it on an iPad without any address bar - talks about an experiment that has been running in Zurich since 1994 to provide heroin for regular users in an effort to tackle street drugs and their associated criminality. The organisers say it costs £33.50 per patient per day, but produces a net saving of £27.60 per day after factoring in the reduction in crime & criminal justice system costs.

More importantly, 30% of Swiss users find jobs and pay taxes. A remarkable total. As Dr Adrian Kormann - Zoki 2's clinical director - suggests, '...their health and welbeing improve, they stop committing crimes and many can get back into education or work. They rebuild relations with their families and friends. And all of it comes at a saving to the state.' A similar limited experiment has apparently been tried in this country, with results so far unknown.

This is just the sort of bold, but vital initiative we need in the UK to start turning the tide against decades of ignorant attempts to treat, usually through the prison system, the symptoms of heroin addiction which blight families and communities up and down the country - street crime, burglary and prostitution. We must start returning addicts back to families and communities able to properly support them. Without the blight of criminal activity that so divides them from society.