Pubdate: Thu, 03 Mar 2005
Source: Scotsman (UK)
Copyright: The Scotsman Publications Ltd 2005
Author: David Barrett, PA Home Affairs Correspondent
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)
Bookmark: (Walters, John)


The US's drug tsar today defended his Governments opposition to schemes 
such as clean needle exchange programmes and legal injecting rooms.

During a visit to London, John Walters said the threat posed by the global 
drugs scourge and scientific studies of addiction did not support such schemes.

He insisted that cracking down on the supply and demand for illegal drugs 
was a far more effective approach.

His Government's drug policy had seen a 17% reduction in teenage drug use 
over three years, he said.

Earlier this week the International Drug Policy Consortium, funded by a 
British charity, said the US was attempting to influence the way its 
donations to UN drug projects were spent to the detriment of harm reduction 
schemes such as needle exchange programmes.

"People who advocate for distribution of clean needles or some of those 
proposing to provide safe injecting rooms or for the Government to provide 
the drugs  we think that is not a fair reading of the science or the 
threat," said Mr Walters.

"I think we should not be caught up with silly semantics - we all want to 
reduce the harm.

"There is a serious issue about what are the measures that most effectively 
reduce harm but the best thing is prevention, second is treatment and third 
is harm reduction which is just better than doing nothing.

"We certainly don't believe in doing nothing.

"We believe that scarce resources when we are talking about an addicted 
population should be directed to treatment."

Some advocates of harm reduction schemes were presenting them as the 
"default position," added Mr Walters, whose full title is Director of the 
White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Speaking at a press conference at the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square, 
central London, the drug tsar said that this year would be crucial in the 
future of Afghanistan, which has seen rising heroin production levels in 
the last two years.

It would show whether the opium poppy crops continued to rise or shrink, he 

Asked whether Afghan President Hamid Karzai had been set a deadline to 
reduce opium crops by persuasion before crops were forcibly destroyed, Mr 
Walters said: "That is not the way the discussion at senior levels that I 
have been present at has proceeded."

He said Afghanistan needed a strong and focused leader to combat the 
problem and he believed President Karzai possessed such qualities.
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