Drugs news

State spends £2.5m on
free heroin for abusers

Last updated: 21 November 2007

Free heroin has been made available to hardened drug abusers through NHS clinics at a cost of £2.5 million to the taxpayer.

The experiment, which aims to draw heroin abusers away from street dealers and related crime, has been on trial in Darlington, Brighton and London.

It involves providing clean rooms where addicts can use sterilised needles to inject their free drugs under the supervision of medical professionals.

These rooms have been dubbed "shooting galleries". The cost for treating each addict works out at between £9,000 and £15,000 a year.

Critics say this is outrageous at a time when sufferers of cancer, Alzheimer's and arthritis have been denied some treatments because of a lack of NHS funds.

Supporters of the scheme say it will reduce crime. Professor John Strang of the National Addiction Centre at the Institute of Psychiatry in London, said that the addicts' "crimes have gone from 40 a month each to perhaps four a month. The reduction is not perfect but it is a great deal better for them and, crucially, a great deal better for society."

However, David Davis MP, the shadow Home Secretary, said: "This is a white flag approach. The Government are effectively conceding that the war on drugs is not winnable and instead spending millions trying to 'manage' addiction."

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