Britain's first heroin 'shooting gallery' set to open next year

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Britain's first heroin "shooting gallery", where addicts can get free injections 24 hours a day, could be opened next year.

Britain's first heroin "shooting gallery", where addicts can get free injections 24 hours a day, could be opened next year.

Addicts who are unable to kick their habit would be counselled and given three injections every day of pure "pharmaceutical" heroin under plans being considered by one of Britain's biggest police forces and drugs agencies.

The controversial scheme, which is similar to projects in Australia and Switzerland, is being examined in Kent, where the Chief Constable has given his backing for the project.

If the scheme is successful, it is likely to lead to heroin injection rooms throughout the country.

A team that includes representatives of Kent police, health workers and probation staff is examining the scale of the heroin problem in the county and drawing up plans for a clinic. A final decision is expected next spring. The first 24-hour clinic is likely to be situated in either Rochester, Chatham or Gillingham.

The gallery will be aimed at addicts who have failed to respond to detoxification treatment or prescription of the heroin substitute methadone. Kent police believe that by offering heroin addicts prescribed diamorphine – or pure, pharmaceutically produced heroin – they will be able to cut dramatically the number of crimes committed by serial offenders. Any trial, however, is bound to be hugely controversial and is likely to lead to accusations, particularly by the right-wing press and the Tories, that the scheme is soft on drugs and will lead to further addiction.

Superintendent Andy Gent, the senior officer on the team, said: "We are going to look at the potential for prescribing diamorphine or pharmaceutical heroin. One of the difficulties we have in putting heroin into a clinical arena is that it will be the target of criminals. The security of the place is an issue and whether the drug should be administered by a clinician or injected by the heroin user. It has to be given three times a day and any establishment would need to be open 24 hours every day."

Comments