Jack Straw calls for heroin on NHS
JACK STRAW, the justice secretary, has called for the NHS to give out heroin on prescription to addicts for whom other forms of treatment have failed.
He claims “imaginative” solutions to hard-drug abuse are needed and believes there could be “huge benefits” to issuing the drug to chronic addicts.
Straw said: “For the most problematic heroin users it may be the best means of reducing the harm they do themselves, and of stamping out the crime and disorder they inflict on the community.”
Straw is the first cabinet minister to intervene in the debate following last week’s publication of the results of a pilot scheme involving 127 heroin addicts in three cities. This trial had users injecting themselves under medical supervision, and revealed a huge drop in the crimes they committed to feed their habit.
Drugs experts, however, warn a “state-sponsored fix” does not wean addicts off the drug, and Straw agrees prescription heroin is “no magic bullet,” although it could reduce the £15 billion the UK spends yearly on Class A drug abuse.
Straw is the first cabinet minister to publicly endorse prescription heroin since 2002, when the then home secretary David Blunkett set up prescription trials.
Paul Hayes, head of the government’s drug treatment service, warned prescription heroin would only benefit a “very small proportion” of the 160,000 addicts in treatment”.
Isabel Oakeshott, Deputy Political Editor