Pubdate: Sat, 25 Nov 2006
Source: Argus, The (UK)
Copyright: 2006 Newsquest Media Group
Cited: National Treatment Agency
Cited: Action on Addiction
Cited: National Drug Prevention Alliance
Bookmark: (Heroin Maintenance)
Bookmark: (Methadone)
Bookmark: (Treatment)


Drug addicts are to be prescribed heroin on the NHS in a controversial
plan to cut crime and get users off drugs.

Addicts would be allowed to inject themselves under supervision as
part of a scheme costing UKP12,000 to UKP15,000 a year for every user.

The scheme is expected to be introduced in Brighton and Hove early
next year, possibly February, in a bid to cut some of the dozens of
drug-related deaths in the city each year.

Brighton and Hove was named the drug death capital of the UK in

Anti-drug campaigners have criticised the trial and said it would not
help people to get off drugs.

The trial is being funded by the Home Office and run by the National
Treatment Agency and Action On Addiction.

Heroin addicts will be given the drug with which to inject themselves
in supervised surroundings, with a specially trained nurse in attendance.

They will receive two injections a day of diamorphine, pharmaceutical
heroin, seven days a week and be given methadone to take home in the

A controversial trial has already been launched in London at the
Maudsley Hospital and in Darlington. Addicts in Brighton and Hove will
be chosen for the project by researchers from the Maudsley.
Researchers will compare the progress of ten addicts given the drug to
inject and ten who will be given liquid methadone.

Chris Hughes, substance misuse services manager at the Sussex
Partnership NHS Trust, will be running the scheme in the city.

He said the study would involve 150 addicts across the country and 30
would come from Brighton and Hove.

The location of the scheme has not been announced.

Mr Hughes said the heroin would not leave the scheme's

He said: "We will be looking at people who have had difficulty
benefiting from the mainstream treatments.

"We will be looking at dealing with people who don't respond well to
heroin substitutes and being in hospital.

"A lot of people won't come forward for methadone treatment. If this
trial is successful it will have all-round benefits for everyone.

"They will look to see the outcomes afterwards and monitor health,
reduction in drug use and reduction in crime.

"At the end of the trial we review how people have managed in
treatment and make decisions about how we go from there.

"If it is successful then this will be a reason to continue

The dose of diamorphine given to each addict would be worked out in
the first couple of weeks of the scheme and remain constant
throughout, unless the user requested its reduction.

Mr Hughes said: "The idea is to get them stable and keep them stable
throughout the trial."

He said all participants would be tested regularly and if any were
found to be topping up with "street" heroin, a review of their
treatment would be carried out.

Critics have argued the city's high-quality support services attract
addicts to the city. There are believed to be about 2,300 heroin
addicts living in Brighton and Hove.

Peter Stoker, director of National Drug Prevention Alliance, said:
"We're against the idea. It is perpetuating dependency.

"Abstinence should be their goal, not continuance. There needs to be a
plan on how to give up not how to keep on using.

"We need to bear in mind that many users have people who are affected
by their addiction."

Recovering heroin addict Rick Cook runs a service user group in

He said he supported the trial but was concerned what would happen at
the end of the trial.

Mr Cook said: "The downside would be the aftercare. Will people be
supported after the trial ends? I have been assured they will be
supported but it is a concern the trial would just stop."

Justin Grantham, a manager at Brighton and Hove's Crime Reduction
Partnership, welcomed the trial but warned it would be

He said: "For every UKP100 an addict spends on drugs a week there is
UKP300 of criminal activity a week, about UKP150,000 a year.

"I'm 100 per cent behind the scheme."

He said it would help cut drug deaths in the city because the heroin
would not be contaminated and clean needles would be used in a
supervised environment. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake