Prescribing scheme cut drug-related crime

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The Independent Online
A SYSTEM for licensing the prescription of hard drugs for addicts exists in embryo form in Britain and has reduced drug-related crime and the number of new addicts.

John Marks, of Widnes, Merseyside, is one of about 30 consultant psychiatrists in England and Wales licensed to prescribe such drugs. He said yesterday that a study in Widnes showed that registration of addicts and prescription of drugs had led to a 15-fold decrease in the number of crimes for which drug users were convicted.

Before they were registered and prescribed drugs, addicts were convicted of 6.8 crimes each on average a year. In the 12 months after that they were found guilty of an average of 0.4 offences. The scheme also produced a 12-fold decrease in new addicts.

He reinforced a call by Commander John Grieve, head of criminal intelligence at the Metropolitan Police, that the Government should license the supply and use of illegal drugs. Commander Grieve's speech to senior police officers on Thursday was welcomed by drugs agencies yesterday.

The service provided by Dr Marks is available to only a few addicts, but could serve as a nucleus for a nationwide system. He said: 'We give out a ration to people who would take up the habit regardless. You then stop them dealing or committing offences to finance their habit.

'The thinking which Commander Grieve outlined is not new to the Home Office. But the public is not prepared for it and it is politically unacceptable.'

Addicts have to be referred to specialists such as Dr Marks by their general practitioners. Consultants seek to persuade them to try alternative treatment such as counselling.

MPs' hostility, page 3

Leading article, page 16