Pubdate: Fri, 07 Sep 2007
Source: Scotsman (UK)
Copyright: 2007 The Scotsman Publications Ltd
Author: Peter MacMahon, Scottish Government Editor
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)
Bookmark: (Heroin)
Bookmark: (Methadone)


FERGUS Ewing last night firmly rejected growing demands for drug
addicts to be prescribed heroin.

The minister for community safety said the Scottish National Party
government would instead concentrate on getting people off drugs.

Mr Ewing's intervention came as the Scottish Parliament heard details
of how prescribing heroin works in the Netherlands and one Nationalist
MSP publicly advocated the idea.

Vincent Hendriks, a researcher with the Parnassia Addiction Research
Centre, told parliament's Future's Forum yesterday that giving out the
drug was a good use of taxpayers money.

He said that it had been shown in the Netherlands that prescribing
heroin led to a reduction in petty crime, as addicts did not steal to
fund their habit. It also stabilised addicts' lives and so they did
not require so much attention from social services.

Mr Hendriks argued that prescribing heroin was good medical practice.
He said: "The first thing a physician does is try to cure the
'disease'. If he cannot, he tries to alleviate the symptoms.

"That is good practice if you are prescribing, say, insulin. For some
reason drug-harm reduction is divorced from good practice."

This view was echoed yesterday at Holyrood by Bill Wilson, an SNP
back-bencher who cited support for the idea from John Vine, the chief
constable of Tayside.

Mr Wilson told a debate on drugs policy: "If we want to keep people
safe, if we want to protect our people, then we have to look at new

Speaking after the debate, Mr Ewing said: "We want to get more people
off drugs, not to find new ways of providing more drugs or new drugs
for people."

He said the SNP would concentrate on stopping children getting
involved in drugs, education and moving addicts from the methadone
heroin substitute to rehabilitation to allow them to "come off drugs".
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MAP posted-by: Steve Heath