Pubdate: Wed, 23 Jun 1999
Source: Canberra Times (Australia)
Author: Colin P. Glover


LIKE Mr Trickett ("Heroin trial had 95pc failure rate", Letters, 16 June) I
too read the report on the Swiss heroin trial.

It strongly criticised the conduct and methodology of the trial and there
were many loose ends, but there were some nuggets of hope, such as
improvement in the housing and employment situations of participants.

The basic fallacy of the assessment is that success (5.2 per cent) is
equated only to total and lasting abstinence; but to maintain life, to
avoid disease and to get addicts out of dealers' clutches and its related
crime and prostitution are worthy objectives in themselves.

We need to change our focus and question those rigid religious, moral and
ethical objections that form the hard core of opposition to prescribing
heroin for addicts. We supply them with methadone, an opiate
heroin-substitute that can be swallowed or injected. Buprenorphine sounds
promising, but may take years to introduce.

The reluctance to prescribe injectable heroin is, I suspect, because it is
a tradable narcotic and its officially sanctioned distribution is anathema
to the major narcotics control authorities.

Heroin can be taken as pills, capsules, cigarettes, suppositories,
inhalation sprays and maybe even adhesive patches. The real effort to
introduce those variants awaits general acceptance that heroin addiction is
a disease and should be so treated.

By all means aim for the holy grail of lasting abstinence, but do not
ignore the partial solutions classed as harm minimisation.

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MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart