Pubdate: Tue, 18 Dec 2001
Source:  Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Germany)
Address: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, D-60267 Frankfurt, GERMANY
Email:  2001 Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
Fax: +49 (0) 69 - 7591 2767
Bookmark: (Treatment)
Bookmark: (Heroin Maintenance)
Bookmark: (Methadone)


BERLIN (F.A.Z.) --  Germany's drug abuse commissioner said on Tuesday that 
she would present to the federal government next year a new program to 
fight drug addiction, including alcohol abuse and smoking.

Marion Caspers-Merk said the intention was to put more emphasis on treating 
individuals' addictions. But success will require the use of all "four 
pillars of drug and addiction policy: prevention, treatment, social support 
and law enforcement," she said.

Ms. Caspers-Merk said she had high hopes for the "heroin on prescription" 
program under which doctors will prescribe the opiate to hard-core addicts 
out of centers in Frankfurt, Hamburg, Hannover, Munich, Bonn, Cologne and 
Karlsruhe starting in February.

Half of the participating total of 1,120 addicts will be given heroin, with 
a control group receiving methadone, the purpose being to determine which 
group is more amenable to counseling and other measures aimed at breaking 
their drug habit.

The federal government-backed program, she said, offered an important 
opportunity "to start reversing the number of deaths from drugs." A similar 
program in Switzerland has helped addicts and reduced drug- related crime 
there, she said.

Ms. Caspers-Merk said that from January to the end of November of this year 
1,552 fatalities due to drug abuse were recorded by officials across 
Germany, compared with 1,684 for the same period in 2000. But she said the 
drop -- the first in four years -- represented at best only a stabilization 
of narcotics use after a sharp increase in drug deaths last year, not a 
significant decline.

She added that about half of the country's registered drug addicts were 
receiving some help already, with some 10,000 in treatment centers and 
about 50,000 others being administered "substitute drugs," usually methadone.

It is the legalized drugs of alcohol and tobacco, however, which continue 
to cut the widest swath through the health of the German population. Ms. 
Caspers-Merk said that about 20 percent of all hospital beds in the country 
were occupied by people suffering from alcohol-related illnesses, or 
accidents or violence in which excessive drinking was a factor.

Ten percent of all visits to German doctors are connected to alcohol, Ms. 
Caspers-Merk said, adding that too many physicians were failing to identify 
addiction problems and address them with their patients.

As for tobacco, she said that little progress had been made in negotiations 
with the tobacco companies over an industry-funded program which would be 
aimed at educating children and adolescents about the risks of nicotine 
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