Pubdate: Fri, 16 Jul 1999
Date: 07/16/1999
Source: Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)
Author: Dr Andrew Byrne

Dear Editor:

Retired general Barry McCaffrey has no credentials to advise us on
drugs policy, unless we are to call in the army. Americans can claim
few prizes in their "war against drugs", except regarding research
which they too often ignore.

HIV, overdose, hepatitis and crime are all high, while treatment is
restricted to a privileged few, estimated to be one in eight regular
heroin addicts in the US.

While previously a critic of methadone treatment, the general now
strongly supports its use in normal medical practice to improve access
for more addicts.

Despite his efforts over five years, American doctors are still barred
from prescribing this cheap and effective medicine for addicts.

On the brighter side, Switzerland's annual opioid overdose rate of
five per million is comparable to 1900, when opium products were also
very popular.

Australia and the US have 10-20 times this rate, which equates to more
than 500 preventable deaths if we could follow Swiss trends.

The carnage among young Australians will continue as long as John
Howard takes advice from people without runs on the board.

More than 2,000 grieving parents this year deserve better answers than
"current policies are working just fine".

Dr Andrew Byrne,