Pubdate: Fri, 4 Dec 1998
Source: Advertiser, The (Australia)
Page: 17
Author: Brian McConnell


THE letter by Roslyn Phillips, research officer from the Festival of
Light, (The Advertiser. 13/11/98) attempts to keep us in the dark
about the Swiss heroin trial. The claims are factually wrong or, at
best, half-truths and are certainly biased.

For example: a controlled trial arranged after the main study, which
supported the original findings was reported in the British Medical
Journal on July 4, 1998: the self-reported drop in crime was confirmed
by a Swiss criminologist as an 80 per cent reduction; a condition of
entry to the trial was forfeiture of driving privileges; all
participants paid fees, thus the heroin was not free; and there was a
net economic benefit of about $51 a patient day, not an "enormous
economic cost" as claimed.

The success of the Swiss heroin trial as a treatment option for
severely addicted people is beyond doubt. Those who entered the trial
were homeless and in poor health and at risk of dying. A small number
moved to other treatments and the number who became drug-free did so
at about the same rate as other programs.

As for the rest, they may not be drug-free but they are no longer
homeless, they are in better health and they are alive. They now have
a better chance to become drug-free in the future.

The added claim of vested interests of drug companies in providing
heroin on prescription is a smokescreen that obscures the fact that
supply of street drugs is by criminals. Objective research covering
all the facts is essential for an issue where in Australia the loss of
life is increasing.

B. McCONNELL, President, Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform.
Higgins, ACT.

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Checked-by: Rich O'Grady