Policy should focus on hard core cases

The government’s drugs policy should focus on
the 250,000 “problematic users” whose habits cause most damage to
themselves and others, the House of Commons home affairs select
committee said in its report published this week.

It recommends a trial programme of carefully
supervised heroin prescription to addicts along the lines of those
under way in the Netherlands and Switzerland.

If successful, such a system “should replace
the little-used British system of licensing”, says the

A pilot programme of safe injecting rooms is
also recommended to get chronic heroin users off the streets. This
should be established “without delay” and, if successful, extended
across the country, states the report.

Committee chairperson Chris Mullin, Labour MP
for Sunderland South, said that all drug use was harmful to some
extent and should be discouraged but that we have to “face the
fact” that large numbers of young people take drugs.

“As far as users are concerned, our priorities
should be realistic education, readily available treatment and harm
reduction. Above all, we need to focus on that relatively small
minority of drug users who are making a misery of their own lives
and those of others. The criminal law should be reserved primarily
for dealers.”

He said the government should substantially
raise the funding for treatment for heroin addicts and ensure that
methadone treatment and complementary therapies are universally
available to those who need them says the committee.

GPs need better training in substance misuse,
which should be part of both the undergraduate and post-graduate
medical curriculum.

Other proposals include the reclassification
of cannabis as a Class C drug and ecstasy as Class B, and the
creation of a new offence of “supply for gain” to distinguish
between social supply and dealing.

The Government’s Drugs Policy: Is It
See www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmhaff.htm

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