Pubdate: Wed, 11 May 2005
Source: Weymouth News (MA)
Copyright: 2005 Weymouth News
Author: Robert Sharpe
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)
Bookmark: (Heroin)


Regarding Jim Bowen's May 4 column, because heroin is sold via an 
unregulated illicit market, its quality and purity fluctuate tremendously. 
A user accustomed to low-quality heroin who unknowingly uses near pure 
heroin will likely overdose. The inevitable tough-on-drugs response to 
overdose deaths threatens public safety. Attempts to limit the supply of 
drugs while demand remains constant only increase the profitability of 
trafficking. For addictive drugs like heroin, a spike in street prices 
leads desperate addicts to increase criminal activity to feed desperate 
habits. The drug war doesn't fight crime, it fuels crime.

While the United States remains committed to harmful drug policies modeled 
after alcohol prohibition, Europe has largely abandoned the drug war in 
favor of harm reduction alternatives. Switzerland's heroin maintenance 
trials have been shown to reduce drug-related disease, death and crime 
among chronic users. Addicts would not be sharing needles if not for 
zero-tolerance laws that restrict access to clean syringes, nor would they 
be committing crimes if not for artificially inflated black-market prices.

Providing chronic addicts with standardized doses in a clinical setting 
eliminates many of the problems associated with heroin use. Heroin 
maintenance pilot projects are underway in Germany, Spain and the 
Netherlands. If expanded, prescription maintenance would deprive organized 
crime of a core client base. This would render illegal heroin trafficking 
unprofitable and spare future generations addiction. Putting public health 
before politics may send the wrong message to children, but I like to think 
the children are more important than the message.

For information on the efficacy of heroin maintenance please read the 
following British Medical Journal report:

Robert Sharpe, MPA

Arlington, VA

Policy Analyst

Common Sense for Drug Policy 
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MAP posted-by: Elizabeth Wehrman