British Police Plan To Give Away Free Heroin In New Program

By Victoria Kim 03/08/17

The progressive new program aims to reduce crime and addiction. 

British police surveying a crowd.

Police in Durham, a city in northeast England, plan to provide free heroin to drug users, with the end goal of reducing both crime and addiction.

“The aim would be to enable people who have become addicted to heroin to follow a program that would stabilize their addiction in a controlled environment, and reduce their dependency on heroin until they stop taking it,” said Durham Police and Crime Victims Commissioner Ron Hogg. The program would work in conjunction with a traditional substance abuse support program.

The idea is that by having access to free heroin, drug users won’t have to resort to crime, like stealing, to support their addiction. Durham Chief Constable Mike Barton said, according to the Independent newspaper, that the initiative would also take away from drug dealers’ profits, and prevent drug users from having to transact with them on the black market. 

“We need to get over our moral panic about giving people heroin as part of a treatment plan,” said Barton. “Our primary concern is to prevent crime. If we’ve got people who are addicted to Class A drugs committing crime, it makes good sense to get that person off drugs.”

Figures from 2015-2016 show that in England, there were 149,807 people receiving treatment for opioid use disorder. Between 2012 and 2015, heroin-related deaths doubled from 579 to 1,201 deaths in England and Wales.

Other governments in Scotland, Australia, Germany, France, Switzerland, and the Netherlands, have also approved similar safe injection initiatives.

Last October, Glasgow, Scotland became the first city in the UK to approve plans for "fix rooms," where people will be provided medical-grade heroin and clean syringes. 

Switzerland has offered a free heroin maintenance program since 1994. The program, which began in Zurich, is credited with decreasing crime. According to the Daily Mail, it has expanded to 23 clinics—which also provide counseling and support—throughout the country.

According to the Independent, the free heroin clinics could be established in the Durham area before the end of this year. 

“The aim of the initiative is to save the lives of addicts, shut down drug dealers and reduce acquisitive crime,” said Commissioner Hogg. “It would also reduce demand on police time, and the courts, and I believe it should also help lower the prison population.”

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