A better prescription

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The Independent Online

The drugs policies of successive governments have been timid and inconsistent. But one measure contained in yesterday's drugs plan – beyond the downgrading of cannabis, which we hailed when it was mooted earlier this year, and the expansion of rehabilitation services – deserves to be welcomed. This is the reversal on the treatment of heroin addiction.

The drugs policies of successive governments have been timid and inconsistent. But one measure contained in yesterday's drugs plan – beyond the downgrading of cannabis, which we hailed when it was mooted earlier this year, and the expansion of rehabilitation services – deserves to be welcomed. This is the reversal on the treatment of heroin addiction.

Since the mid-Sixties, the favoured treatment has been methadone. There is scant evidence, however, that it has weaned more addicts off heroin than prescribed heroin itself. And methadone has given rise to problems of its own, as heroin users sell methadone in return for heroin, so creating a new group of methadone addicts. Methadone will remain the first option. But if heroin, prescribed and taken in controlled hygienic surroundings, is shown to save lives and cut drug-related crime, that should be the treatment of choice.

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