Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Heroin on the NHS?

Some people have called for heroin to be available on the NHS. No kidding.

Making heroin on the NHS is supposed to prevent female drug addicts from becoming prostitutes (or sex workers, if you prefer euphemisms) to finance their habit. This isn't a novel idea, however. There are already a select group of drug addicts who get heroin on the NHS. Take Erin O'Mara, whose story you can read in this article. She is one of 400 users in the UK who are currently being prescribed heroin, on the NHS. Each of these "special" addicts cost the taxpayer about £10,000 a year.

And if some policy makers have their way, more drug users would have access to heroin on the NHS. Arguments supporting this range from reducing drug-related crime, improving the quality of drug addicts' lives and protecting women (presumably from the dangers of working on the streets).

I'm all in favour of protecting women and cutting crime of every kind. But giving addicts heroin on the NHS? Wouldn't that encourage more people to use heroin even when they know they may end up becoming addicted to it? Hmm. There are more questions than answers, it seems.

I agree with Dr Emily Finch, a consultant psychiatrist at one of the sites conducting trials into heroin prescribing, that society will have to think seriously about whether they want to pay (financially and otherwise - my own words) for this drug to be made available.

What do you think? Add your comment below.

No comments: