Pubdate: Sat, 11 Jun 2011 Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PA) Copyright: 2011 PG Publishing Co., Inc. Contact: http://drugsense.org/url/pm4R4dI4 Website: http://www.post-gazette.com/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/341 Author: John G. Chase Related: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v11/n313/a06.html Referenced: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v11/n360/a01.html SWISS SUCCESS While reading Tony Norman's June 3 column about the Global Commission on Drug Policy ( "Ease Up in Drug War? Smart But Unlikely" ), I came across the May 15 report by Michael A. Fuoco, "Heroin Use in Region at Highest Level Ever." This is EXACTLY the problem Ruth Dreifuss faced in the early 1990s. She is a member of the commission and also Switzerland's former president and minister of home affairs. Bern and Zurich were trying to cope with an epidemic of opiate addiction and AIDS caused by IV drug use. (We Americans read about Zurich's notorious Platzspitz, aka "needle park".) She got the police and the medical community to agree on an experiment. They started in 1992 by closing Zurich's "needle park" to drug users and letting hard-core addicts register with the state to obtain clean heroin. They also offered methadone maintenance, counseling and, if requested, treatment to abstinence. In the years since, it has gotten majority support of the Swiss people and spread throughout Switzerland. In a 2008 referendum the Swiss people voted over 2-to-1 to make it a permanent part of their national health system. While methadone is used for 95 percent of the addicts, heroin is available to the 5 percent for whom methadone is ineffective. The program pays for itself in improved public health and safety and enables addicts to hold jobs and pay taxes. The average age at registration is slowly rising, an indication that kids are not becoming addicted, and the number of patients needing heroin has stabilized at about 1,300. Use of drugs other than opiates has either declined or stayed the same. The key to success was to de-politicize the issue and involve both law enforcement and the medical community. Even the U.N. Office of Drug Control has backed off its criticism of the program. The Swiss are onto something. It is a story that needs telling. JOHN G. CHASE Palm Harbor, Fla - --- MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.