Pubdate: Tue, 13 Apr 1999
Source: Canberra Times (Australia)
Author: David Brand
Note: Geoff Page's article is at:


WHILE the Australian Medical Association encourages debate on drug-law
reform and on the treatment of addiction, the record does need to be
set straight in relation to Geoff Page's assertion that the AMA
opposed the criminalisation of heroin in his article "The great
sidestep on heroin" (CT, 7 April, p.9).

It appears Mr Page was refering to the medical profession's stance on
heroin when the Commonwealth was in the throes of making heroin
illegal, in 1953.

The fact is, it was the AMA's precursors, the British Medical Association's
Australian branches, which were opposed to heroin being made illegal. Mr
Page's source, Drug Prohibition: A Call For Change, by Alex Wodak and Ron
Owens, clearly stated it was the BMA in Australia that took that stance.

Unfortunately, Mr Page did not make the most of his source and explain
why. According to the source, "the BMA feared that the proposed
prohibition of heroin would deprive them of a useful drug frequently
prescribed for the pain of childbirth and the often untractable pain
of terminal cancer".

Heroin remains, to this day, the standard painkiller administered by
British doctors for acute heart attacks and other extremely painful

Since then, medical advances have enabled the profession to use more
effective drugs and pharmaceuticals for pain relief, and high-tech
anaesthetic procedures to provide better surgical outcomes.

In 1999 the AMA supports programs for the treatment of heroin
dependence and the proposed trial of heroin prescription for the
management of dependence.

Federal President, Australian Medical Association Ltd, Barton

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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake