Pubdate: Fri, 11 Feb 2005
Source: Beverly Citizen (MA)
Copyright: 2005 Community Newspapers Inc.
Author:  Robert Sharpe
Bookmark: (Heroin Maintenance)


To the editor:

Because heroin is sold via an unregulated illicit market, its quality and
purity fluctuate tremendously. A user accustomed to low-quality heroin who
unknowingly uses near pure heroin will likely overdose. The inevitable
tough-on-drugs response to overdose deaths threatens public safety. Attempts
to limit the supply of drugs while demand remains constant only increase the
profitability of trafficking. For addictive drugs like heroin, a spike in
street prices leads desperate addicts to increase criminal activity to feed
desperate habits. The drug war doesn't fight crime, it fuels crime.

While the United States remains committed to harmful drug policies modeled
after alcohol prohibition, Europe has largely abandoned the drug war in
favor of harm reduction alternatives. Switzerland's heroin maintenance
trials have been shown to reduce drug-related disease, death and crime among
chronic users. Addicts would not be sharing needles if not for
zero-tolerance laws that restrict access to clean syringes, nor would they
be committing crimes if not for artificially inflated black-market prices.

Providing chronic addicts with standardized doses in a clinical setting
eliminates many of the problems associated with heroin use. Heroin
maintenance pilot projects are underway in Germany, Spain and the
Netherlands. If expanded, prescription maintenance would deprive organized
crime of a core client base. This would render illegal heroin trafficking
unprofitable and spare future generations addiction. Putting public health
before politics may send the wrong message to children, but I like to think
the children are more important than the message.

Please feel free to edit and publish. Thank you for your consideration.

For information on the efficacy of heroin maintenance please read the
following British Medical Journal report:

Robert Sharpe, MPA Policy Analyst Common Sense for Drug Policy

P.O. Box 59181

Washington, DC 20012
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