Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Experts Urge Drug Policy Reform - Is Julia Gillard Ready?

With Julia Gillard publicly declaring she is an atheist, there is some speculation that she may drop the old moral arguments driving our drug policy and instead implement an evidence based strategy. The timing for JG is perfect as the call for drug law reform has been growing exponentially over the last few years. And to top it off, a group of world renown experts have just gone public by announcing their support for “evidence-based approaches to illicit drug policy that start by recognizing that addiction is a medical condition, not a crime”. The announcement came prior to next month’s 18th International AIDS Conference in Vienna titled, The Vienna Declaration.

The Vienna Declaration calls for a scientific approach to illicit drug use and questions the effectiveness of the criminalisation of injection drug users.  The document, written by medical and academic professionals, does not criticise law enforcement personnel, but rather the policies they carry out.  It says those policies are helping to spread HIV/AIDS.

The Vienna Declaration is basically a scientific statement from the scientific community about the harms of illegal drugs in our society, and drawing important attention to the fact that many of the policies, which are in place around the world – this notion of sort of a war on drugs and this over emphasis on law enforcement does more harm than good.
-- Dr. Evan Wood: Chair of the Vienna Declaration Writing Committee

Julia Gillard has a unique opportunity to shake off the tired old "Tough on Drugs" mantra that has kept Australia from progressing as one of the early leaders in harm minimisation. Without the ACL and other religious groups being able to push their nasty, dangerous anti-drug ideology on a susceptible PM, JG might finally be someone who is able to see past their agenda and opt for evidence, science and compassion. All of which has been sadly lacking for over a decade.

The criminalisation of illicit drug users is fuelling the HIV epidemic and has resulted in overwhelmingly negative health and social consequences. A full policy reorientation is needed…Reorienting drug policies towards evidence-based approaches that respect, protect and fulfill human rights has the potential to reduce harms deriving from current policies and would allow for the redirection of the vast financial resources towards where they are needed most: implementing and evaluating evidence-based prevention, regulatory, treatment and harm reduction interventions.

Unfortunately, much of the world is probably stymied by what the US decides to do with their drug policy. Although the "War on Drugs" has officially been ended by the US government, they are yet to fully back their rhetoric with action. This may simply be a political manoeuvre until Obama is elected for a second term where he can instigate the drug law reform he once promised. Nevertheless, the changes to US drug policy are solid building blocks for the future especially removing the ban on federal funding for needle exchange programs and the acknowledgment that drug policy must incorporate treatment as a priority.

I will be extremely interested to see what will happen after the upcoming federal election. Especially in regard to prescription heroin and medical marijuana. Both of these issues are supported by science and evidence and are important steps in drug policy reform. 

It’s been over 10 years since the proposed ACT heroin trial was vetoed by John Howard but other countries have now successfully proven the huge benefits of Heroin Assisted Treatment (HAT). A scientific trial is no longer necessary and hopefully we will see Australia establish it’s own HAT programs based on the existing evidence from Germany, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Canada, The UK, Spain and Denmark. 

Hopefully, the need for new laws allowing medical marijuana will be obsolete and instead cannabis will be fully legalised by way of regulation. The cannabis debate has gone on long enough and like the fall of communism, the walls will soon come tumbling down with many countries opting out of the UN’s convention on drugs. Whether Australia follows the inevitable is up to JG.

So, is Julia Gillard sensible enough to follow world trends and base important decisions about drug policy on evidence and research? We will know soon enough.

Experts Urge Reform Of Global Drug Policy
By Veronika Oleksyn

VIENNA — Policies that criminalize drug users fuel the spread of AIDS and should be reformed, experts preparing for an international conference said Monday.

Instead, governments, international organizations and the U.N. should promote policies that include opiate substitution therapy and needle and syringe programs that have been shown to reduce HIV rates without increasing rates of drug use, said the experts from groups such as the International AIDS Society, the International Center for Science in Drug Policy and the British Columbia Center for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. They also want compulsory drug treatment centers to be scrapped, saying they are ineffective and violate human rights.

"The criminalization of illicit drug users is fueling the HIV epidemic and has resulted in overwhelmingly negative health and social consequences. A full policy reorientation is needed," the experts said in a declaration issued ahead of an AIDS conference that gets under way in the Austrian capital on July 18.

Among other things, the declaration says there is no evidence that increasing the "ferocity" of law enforcement reduces the prevalence of drug use and claims that the number of countries in which people inject illegal drugs is growing.
"Many of us in AIDS research and care confront the devastating impacts of misguided drug policies every day," Julio Montaner, president of the International AIDS Society and director of the BC Center for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, said in a statement.

"As scientists, we are committed to raising our collective voice to promote evidence-based approaches to illicit drug policy that start by recognizing that addiction is a medical condition, not a crime," added Montaner, who will serve as chairman of the Vienna conference.

The declaration urges governments, international organizations and the United Nations to carry out a transparent review of the effectiveness of current drug policies and to implement a science-based public health approach.
While legal barriers to needle programs and opiate substitution therapy mean hundreds of thousands of people become infected with HIV and hepatitis C every year, the criminalization of drug users has resulted in record incarceration rates, the experts said in joint statement.

They added that opiate substitution therapy, and needle and syringe programs, are cost-effective, help drug users access health care and have not been shown to have negative consequences.
"The current approach to drug policy is ineffective because it neglects proven and evidence-based interventions, while pouring a massive amount of public funds and human resources into expensive and futile enforcement measures," said Evan Wood, founder of the International Center for Science in Drug Policy.

"It's time to accept the war on drugs has failed and create drug policies that can meaningfully protect community health and safety using evidence, not ideology."

Wood appeared to be echoing a comment made by U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske last month. In an interview with The Associated Press, he said that after 40 years the United States' $1 trillion war on drugs has not been successful.

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Monday, 28 June 2010

How Most People Get Their Information About Drugs

Fox News in the US is fairly much what you would expect from a Murdoch owned TV station - heavily biased conservative spin, anti Obama/Democrats, anti-abortion, strong patriotic themes bordering on jingoism, pro-war, supporters of the "War on Drugs”, very Christian - anti-Muslim etc. But, apart from the show’s obvious bias, it derives much of it’s derision from it’s promotional tag line - Fox News … Fair & Balanced!  It doesn’t take long for someone with an average intelligence to realise just how unfair and unbalanced Fox News really is. For the uninitiated, it would be very easy to mistake it as a self parody comedy sketch.

The latest Fox News outrage is a TV commercial by The Drug Policy Alliance(DPA) released last month. The commercial has upset 2 of their most outspoken commentators, Megyn Kelly and Bill O’Reilly and prompted them to lash out with some very interesting claims. The problem though, is that their claims are false even to the point of being ridiculous. Fox News is renown for misleading figures and bizarre claims when it comes to drugs but this latest effort shows how far some anti-drug pundits will go.

First, the DPA commercial.

DPA Commercial

Watch as Fox News makes their astonishing claims. Keep an eye on the statistics they put up as facts.

Fox News Clip 1

Fox News copped a lot of flack over their report but Megyn Kelly was on a mission. Especially when she found out that fellow Fox News employee, John Stossel agreed with Sting.

Fox News Clip 2

Boy, does that woman hate Sting. You had to laugh though at her “ivory tower” rant and the slur that some unnamed source told her, “Mr. Sting is a big fan of certain substances”

But, it was Megyn Kelly’s attempt to ridicule John Stossel that was most appalling. Although every attempt was made to push out the usual misinformation and false figures as facts, Stossel stuck with the evidence and corrected Kelly several times for flat out lying. In typical style, Kelly kept changing the topic and throwing up straw man arguments but Stossel debunked every point she made.

-All this as you have California, Washington, New Hamshire, Rhode Island and Massachusetts all considering or have passed laws legalising marijuana
-Alcohol has an addiction rate of 10%. Cocaine … 75%.
-The studies show that the places where it’s been legalised, crime has gone up, addiction has gone up
-- Megyn Kelly

The facts:
-Countries that had effectively legalised drugs had decreases in crime and addiction, not increases
-Alcohol has an addiction rate of 15% with cocaine at 17%
-No state in the US have passed laws legalising marijuana

John Stossel must have upset some Fox News heavies and Bill O’Reilly was sent in clean up the mess. And what better way to discredit the DPA commercials than through the founder, Ethan Nadelmann. Armed with their only fact - children are mistreated more often by those with substance abuse problems - Bill-O went into action a few days later.

Fox News Clip 3

Was it really a surprise that Fox News didn’t have a legitimate argument and their attack on illicit drugs was unfounded? As Ethan Nadelmann pointed out, alcohol is the main cause of mistreatment towards children, not drugs but Bill-O wasn’t going to admit to that blunder. His simply dismissed it as “Bull”. Like Megyn Kelly, Bill-O skipped from point to point as each of his claims were pulled apart with facts. Very shallow reporting from Fox News.

It’s sad that this is how many people are getting their information about drugs. The drug debate should be about what’s best for society and how to deal with the problem of drug abuse but it’s dickheads like O’Reilly and Kelly who are prepared to openly lie and criticise those who are doing nothing more than telling the truth. Supporters of prohibition have self serving reasons for their hard line stance on drugs and will go to extreme measures to push their opinion onto the public. That includes accusing a whole country of being morally depraved because of their liberal drug laws.

The attack on The Netherlands by Fox News last year, is a classic example of how a country with very successful drug laws is made to look as immoral and unsafe because it defies the old established views that tough penalties are the only way to fight drugs. This is not so much, a war on drugs but a war on culture.

Fox News - The Netherlands Report

You may have noticed the blonde factor at Fox News - Megyn Kelly, Monica Crowley and Margaret Hoover. Do they have a factory that spits out lying dumb blondes with ridiculous views? You may also be asking yourself, how can Fox News produce such dribble without a storm of criticism. Where were the media on this? Where was the outrage at such scandalous accusations? Why did it take a YouTube response to set the record straight?

Response to The Netherlands Report

More here:
Fox News responds

Fox News response debunked again

And on it goes…

And for more on Megyn Kelly lying about statistics

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Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Brumby Lies About Safe Injection Clinics

I think the evidence now suggests it is not the way to go
-- Victorian Premier John Brumby - Talking about supervised injecting facilities (The Age)

The evidence ... What evidence?

A spokeswoman for Mr Brumby was unable to provide details on the evidence against supervised injecting rooms.
-- The Age

If this isn’t the most blatant case of government deceit, I would love to know what is.

The evidence Brumby speaks of simply doesn’t exist. What does exist though is plenty of evidence that safe injecting centres are the way to go and a local report released just yesterday proves it … again.

Rejecting a publicly funded life saving program like a safe injection clinic is the prerogative of the premier but there is also some responsibility that goes with the decision. Especially when it involves cold face lying to further his political career. Now Brumby must face the real life consequences of his decision. In short, he has condemned some people to overdosing and dying and others to serious infection with the possibility of loosing an arm. Brumby’s selfish, vote seeking actions will cause death, pain and grief … all of it avoidable. I hope one day he is called to produce his “evidence” to those families who loose someone from an overdose where a safe injection centre should have been.

A safe injection centre this is not some radical strategy that has experts undecided but a scientifically proven program that operates in several countries very successfully. It is endorsed by nearly every medical group and expert in Australia including popular support from the public. According to a poll run by The Age, as part of the article below, nearly 4 out of 5 Victorians think we need such a program. 

I want to know why John Brumby thinks he knows more than the hundreds of experts who support the injecting centre and why his opinion is important than the publics. More importantly, I want to know where John Brumby’s mystical evidence is and will he reconsider if he can’t produce it?

Mobile Injecting Room Backed
Kate Hagan
June 2010

Victorian Premier says injecting rooms are not the right way to go.

A MOBILE supervised injecting van should be considered for Melbourne due to the city's geographic spread of drug markets, experts say.

While admitting the issue is difficult politically, experts have renewed their push for supervised injecting rooms following a new report by the Burnet Institute detailing their success at reducing harm in Sydney and overseas.

And they say a mobile facility - such as one that has operated in Barcelona - could be a cost-effective way to provide services in multiple locations where drug users gather including Footscray, St Kilda, Dandenong and Richmond.

The report was commissioned by the Yarra Drug and Health Forum after residents, particularly on public housing estates in Collingwood and Fitzroy, complained of drug users injecting on their doorstep and called for a system to get them off the streets.

Forum executive officer Joe Morris said: ''People who live on the estates continually say, 'Why doesn't the government provide an area for these people to go and inject?' It doesn't mean they support drug use - in fact, some of them are very conservative in their views about what should happen to drug users - but if it's going to happen and if these people are going to inject, then they want a place for them to go.''

Mr Morris said he was aware of Victorian MPs from both major parties who privately supported supervised injecting facilities.

''I'm very hopeful that they will come out, particularly after the election, and stand up for what they believe,'' he said.

Premier John Brumby said yesterday that the government did not support supervised injecting facilities: ''We looked at this issue in some depth some years ago but I think the evidence now suggests it is not the way to go, and we've got no plans to change our policy.''

A spokeswoman for Mr Brumby was unable to provide details on the evidence against supervised injecting rooms.

A Liberal Party spokesman said the opposition did not support them. The Greens continue their support for the facilities.

Professor Robert Power, of the Burnet Institute, said evidence showed injecting facilities improved public amenity by reducing crime, public injecting and discarded needles.

The facilities had also reduced overdoses and risk behaviours for HIV and hepatitis B and C, he said.

Poll: Does Melbourne need a safe injection facility for intravenous drug users?
Yes 79%
No 21%

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Norway Considers Prescription Heroin

As the reported success of Heroin Assisted Treatment (HAT) gains coverage, more and more countries are starting to re-evaluate their own drug treatment strategies. Each year, it’s becoming more difficult to deny the benefits of HAT and the mounting evidence is growing. 

It may have taken a while to sink in but with many decades of little success treating long term heroin addiction and the failure of punitive drug laws, HAT promises to offer far better results for both the community and those addicts on the program. 

Government Commission Suggests Giving Out Free Heroin
June 2010
by Michael Sandelson.

A government commission headed by Thorvald Stoltenberg, Labour (Ap) Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg’s father, has suggested prescribing free heroin.

Mixed reactions
The commission, comprising police and several politicians, amongst others, was established as part of government efforts to improve treatment methods for heavy drug users.

Today, Stoltenberg senior presented the panel’s 22-point findings to Anne-Grethe Strøm-Eriksen, Labour’s Minister of Health and Care Services.

Stoltenberg says they decided in favour of a pilot programme, but with strict admission requirements. Reactions from experts, politicians, and the Salvation Army were mixed.

“Heroin-assisted treatment, and I underline meaning treatment with follow-ups, is something we need in this country for those who haven’t benefitted from other therapies,” deputy leader of the Liberal Party (V) Ola Elvestuen tells NRK.

The Salvation Army says it regards the offer as meaningless, arguing systematised heroin distribution is more a comfort for the community than the addicts.

Stoltenberg’s daughter is herself a former drug addict. Psychiatrist Dag Furuholmen criticises him for leading the commission, alleging he has a conflict of interests.

“I find it extremely odd that a professional person such as him doesn’t understand that. He’s mixing private circumstances with a public issue about treating substance abusers,” Furuholmen tells NRK.

Stoltenberg says he’s never considered his position, as living with her situation has inspired him.

“I do have tremendous self-interests, yes, having become acquainted with them through getting my daughter help. I’m not embarrassed about this.”

Furuholmen also says he considers the commission’s suggestion to be short-sighted and unworthy.

“It’s not a dignified life having to go to the same place to inject oneself three times a day, come rain or shine. Every dependant drug abuser has only one wish, logically speaking: more drugs, more heroin and thus apparently no problems.

Meanwhile Minister of Justice Knut Storberget welcomes the move.

“My attitude to new initiatives for those struggling with substance abuse, is that you must dare to think differently. Over 60 percent of those sitting in Norwegian jails are struggling with significant drug problems, and it shows us we must find alternative ways than just punishment or imprisonment for this group,” he says.

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Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Steve Fielding … Fuck Off!

How long will we have to put up with this ignorant, self righteous twat? This part time clown, part time politician has no qualms about mouthing off about subjects that are too complex for his tiny, pea sized brain. Like arguing against doctors and drug addiction experts, when he has little knowledge about the subject.

Greens High On Soft Drug Policy: Fielding
June 2010

Family First Leader Senator Steve Fielding says the Greens are up to their old tricks with their plan to stick heroin injecting rooms on street corners across the country.

Senator Fielding’s comments come after it was revealed that the Greens will continue their soft stance on drugs ahead of this year federal election.

“As a community we should be getting tougher on drugs not softer,” Senator Fielding said.

“We have a wave of alcohol fuelled violence on our streets and we shouldn’t be making it easier for people to be taking illegal drugs and causing even more problems.

“This is just typical of the Greens warped policy ideas which will just erode away the moral fabric of our society.”

Senator Fielding said the policy of introducing heroin injecting rooms would only support the supply of illegal drugs and line the pockets of dealers.

“Melbourne has already had one drug war too many, just imagine the increase in demand for these illegal narcotics if the Greens were able to get their way,” Senator Fielding said.

“Illegal drugs rip families apart and there is no way we should be making it easier for these people to get their next hit."

Senator Fielding said if voters couldn’t trust Labor and Liberal they certainly couldn’t trust the Greens with their soft stance on drugs.

“Family First is the only party looking out for ordinary Australians without taking things to extremes like the Greens,” Senator Fielding said.

Steve Fielding should do us all a favour and fuck off! He is a fear mongering, morally vacant, self serving ponce. Let me tell you why.

Fielding’s latest response was to public health specialist and Greens’s candidate, Dr. Richard Di Natale. But calling a doctor "Soft on Drugs" because he recommends a scientifically proven program that saves lives is just typical of Fielding’s messed-up moral maelstrom. Fielding’s objection to safe injection clinics in Victoria is based on nothing more than ideology and political profiting. These clinics have been established in several countries and they all have been deemed a huge success. Opposing them with little more than anti-drug rhetoric just shows how shallow Steve Fielding really is.

How apt is it that this weekend, Alex Wodak and Ingrid van Beek have both been appointed as Members of the Order of Australia, mostly for their work establishing the Medically Supervised Injecting Centre (MSIC) and other so called, “soft on drugs” programs like the needle exchange program.

Like most modern conservative Christians in politics, hypocrisy is part of the game. And in this game, Fielding’s target who “will just erode away the moral fabric of our society” is also his political opponent who may just unseat him in the upcoming election. 

Fielding's rejection of science is not welcome in 2010. Fielding believes the world is only 10,000 years old and dinosaurs roamed the the earth with humans. He believes that a man called Noah gathered 2 of every species(including all birds, insects, whales etc.), put them on a boat and saved them from a giant flood that wiped out life on the planet. Maybe Richard Dawkins was correct when he described Fielding as having an IQ lower than an earthworm.

Dawkin’s comment may be more poignant through than just a dig at a well know buffoon. Steve Fielding has a self confessed learning disability. Add to this his bizarre views of evolution and his credibility is not looking too good. Publicity stunts like dressing up as a beer bottle and semi-stripping in a protest march doesn’t help either. This is what he said to SBS News a few days ago.

The Greens are up to their old tricks. They’re soft on drugs and really this is the wrong message to be sending Australia. We’ve got a huge street violence issue and going soft on drugs is going to make it worse not even better.

Does this even make sense? It sounds a lot like a bunch of choice, scary words randomly joined together. 

As with all self righteous, anti-drug warriors, the drug using population are often portrayed as some sort of dark evil that corrupts society. Rarely are they grouped into their appropriate classes - recreational users and addicts. Mostly, these two groups are worlds apart but usually they are lumped in together under the title of scumbags, druggies or junkies. It’s this ignorance that might explain comments like this:

Illegal drugs rip families apart and there is no way we should be making it easier for these people to get their next hit

These people? Does he mean, “these people” who are someone’s friends or family or co-workers. Or does he mean those faceless junkies who should be stopped from using drugs at any cost? I would love for Fielding to explain how providing safe, medical facilities for “these people” is making it easier for them to buy their drugs? 

As a community we should be getting tougher on drugs not softer

What the hell does, “soft on drugs” actually mean? Whenever we hear this term, it usually refers to evidence based strategies that save lives or reduces harm. If that is being “soft on drugs”, then Fielding has some moral dilemmas to work through. Does he just choose to ignore the ample evidence showing the "War on Drugs" has failed along with our own ”Tough on Drugs" policy?

Fielding was elected with just 2519 first preference votes (0.08%), and his party as a whole received just 56,376 votes (1.9%) for the Federal Senate in Victoria

It mightn’t be headline news that Fielding is an utter fuckwit but when he shares the balance of power in the senate, it should be of major concern for all Australians. Ironically, Steve Fielding and Family First are not in the senate through popularity but because of the preference system in Australia. Only 2519 people voted for him. I wonder why?

Thursday, 10 June 2010

So Much for The Government’s "Tough on Drugs" Strategy

What a joke!

Crack-downs on pill presses, biker gangs, over the counter medications, music festivals, chemical precursors, drug paraphernalia and cannabis laws. Increases in police sniffer dogs harassing people, military style police raids, street sweeps, multi-million dollar anti-drug propaganda campaigns from the government, media drug hysteria, ranting politicians, welfare quarantining, roadside drug testing, cannabis arrests(over 55,000 ), drug arrests(83,873). etc. etc. etc.

With more than $5 billion dollars being wasted each year implementing all these measures, what are the results? More hard drugs. More local drug production. More dangerous drug labs. More drug arrests. More drug users in jail. More drug users. Younger drug users.

If this was any other policy, it would be shut down instantly with the opposition screaming for blood. The media would be in a frenzy and the public would demand the resignation of the PM. So why is there is a deafening silence from the media, opposing political parties and the law? Simple … because they also support the current useless and failed drug policies. What a joke!

Record High For Illicit Drug Seizures
By Rebecca Puddy
June 2010

POLICE seizures of party drugs such as ice and ecstasy were the highest on record last year, indicating the nation's appetite for amphetamines continues unabated, a report released today by Australian Crime Commission says.

Cannabis remains the most prevalent drug in Australia, accounting for two-thirds of national illicit drug arrests, while almost 20 per cent of the 83,873 drug arrests were for amphetamine abuse.

But a record number of cocaine arrests and a doubling of heroin seizures in 2008-09 suggests that hard drugs are more readily available.

The commission's Illicit Drug Data Report also finds the number of clandestine drug labs uncovered has tripled since the start of the decade, with the greatest number of drug labs found across Queensland.

"The record number of drug seizures and drug lab detections in Australia pose a significant risk to the environment and to the community,'' ACC chief executive John Lawler said.

"The illicit drug trade feeds drug habits, which in turn leads to more crime in a destructive cycle,'' Mr Lawler said.

The report found the number of clandestine drug labs detected by authorities increased from 150 in 1999-2000 to 449 last year. Western Australia had the sharpest increase, up from 30 in 2007-08 to 78 in 2008-09.

More than 13 tonnes of illicit drugs were seized overall in 2008-09, up from 8.5 tonnes in 2007-08.

Heroin seizures at the border increased from 99.3kg in 2007-08 to 150.6kg last year.

BTW, have a read of Greg Barn’s excellent article in The Punch.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

UK Push for Expanding Heroin Assisted Treatment

A recent article in the medical journal, The Lancet has once again highlighted the need for Heroin Assisted Treatment (HAT) to be expanded in the UK.

Although the article draws upon previously released research results, it was still important enough to catch the media’s attention.

A Google News search found 182 related articles including from The Press Association, The Associated Press, TopNews, Pharmacy News, Reuters, BusinessWeek, BBC News, CBC, The Northern Echo, Irish Independent etc. but not a single mention from any major media outlet in Australia.

The only Australian article I found was in the hard copy edition of the Townsville Bulletin.

Heroin Therapy Call for 'Chronic Addicts'
By Emma Wilkinson - Health Reporter
May 2010

Injectable "medical" grade heroin should be offered under supervision to the most hardened addicts, say UK researchers.

A trial in 127 addicts who had persistently failed to quit the drug showed a significant drop in use of "street" heroin after six months.

Writing in The Lancet, the researchers said the "robust evidence" supports wider provision of heroin treatment.

A spokesman for the government said it would consider the findings.

Around 5-10% of heroin addicts fail to quit despite use of conventional treatments, such as methadone.

Those who took part in the trial had been using the drug for an average of 17 years and had been in treatment for 10 years.

When they took part in the programme they were on methadone treatment but were still taking street heroin on a regular basis.

The researchers - working at clinics in south London, Brighton and Darlington - found that those offered injectable heroin under the supervision of a nurse were significantly more likely to cut down their use of street heroin than those receiving oral or injectable methadone.

Improvements were seen within six weeks of starting the programme, they reported.

In further analysis yet to be published, it was noted that the benefits remained after two years and some patients were able to stop use of the drug altogether.

Study leader, Professor John Strang, from the National Addiction Centre at King's College London, said the supervised heroin programme enables patients to start thinking about employment, re-engaging with their families and taking responsibility for their lives.

"This is a treatment for a severe group of heroin addicts that ordinary treatments have failed with and the question we're answering is 'are these patients untreatable?'."

"The very good news is that you can get these people on a constructive trajectory."

He said the latest study plus a series of other trials now provide clear evidence that this type of treatment should be offered more widely.

It was outlined in the UK government's 2008 Drug Strategy, subject to the results from this trial.

He added that although more expensive than conventional treatments, heroin therapy is considerably cheaper than imprisonment.

A Department of Health spokesman said any approach that gets people off drugs for good should be explored.

"We will look at evidence and both the clinical and cost effectiveness of these treatments.

"However, it is vital that we do all we can to prevent people using drugs in the first place."

Dr Roy Robertson a reader in the Department of Community Health Sciences at Edinburgh University, said whilst none of the outcomes are close to achieving abstinence, treatment with supervised injectable heroin "seems to be our best option".

"This is the intensive care for those heroin users who have failed after all sorts of other available treatments and continue to inject."

DrugScope chief executive Martin Barnes added that there is no "magic bullet" and several treatment interventions may be needed before someone becomes drug free or cuts down their drug use.

"On the basis of the outcomes described, there is a strong case for extending heroin prescribing as a carefully targeted and closely supervised form of treatment for chronic addiction."

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