Social work chiefs want to give drug addicts heroin – on the NHS
Radical pilot scheme proposed after ‘remarkable’ success of trials in England
Social work chiefs in Aberdeen want the city to become the first in Scotland where drug addicts can get heroin on the NHS.
Local authority social work convener Jim Kiddie has called for a pilot scheme to be introduced as an alternative to the methadone programme.
Specialist clinics could be set up where groups of users would be given pure heroin to inject after trials in England which had “remarkable” results. Opposition councillors last night said they feared any move towards such a scheme would turn Aberdeen into a “tourist destination” for drug addicts from across the country.
Independent city councillor Marie Boulton said: “Cancer sufferers will be saying ‘I can’t get drugs to prolong my life’ and we’re suggesting we give heroin addicts free heroin? This raises an awful lot of questions and I think we have to be very careful with this.”
New figures obtained by the Press and Journal show the number of addicts treated with methadone in Aberdeen has almost doubled in the last seven years, yet there has been no substantial reduction in overall drug use.
Since 2002, the number of addicts on methadone has risen from about 900 to between 1,600 and 1,800, while the total number of hard drug users has “stabilised” at about 3,000.
Plans to introduce a pilot scheme in Aberdeen are to be debated at next week’s full council meeting after a motion from Mr Kiddie, a senior SNP councillor, and the Liberal Democrat vice-convener of social work, Gordon Leslie.
Mr Kiddie said: “We should investigate the possibility of a pilot because of the size of the heroin problem in Aberdeen. If it has worked in England then there is no reason why we shouldn’t learn from that.
“I wouldn’t want to rubbish methadone entirely, but I would be asking how many people do you actually get off methadone? There’s only one game in town at the moment and that is methadone – that seems to be the whole drugs policy and the success rate is pretty small.
“This is not an argument for decriminalisation – that is a separate issue. This is me saying let us look at prescribing diamorphine as a way of getting people off heroin.”
A UK Government-backed pilot in London, Brighton and Darlington this year found a “substantial reduction” in street drug use when addicts were given heroin, compared to “much more modest” results for those given methadone.
Similar schemes are enshrined in law, to a greater or lesser extent, in countries such as Portugal, Holland, Switzerland and in parts of Scandinavia. It is understood that if the local authority backs Mr Kiddie’s motion next week, the council would then have to lobby the Scottish Government for new legislation before a decision was taken by its new drug treatment commission.
Article By Calum Ross
Press and Journal