Sunday, June 04, 2006

Heroin 'loses out' to liberal Swiss laws

The Times of India

New Delhi - Heroin, a known addictive banned in most nations across the globe, and the substance that could have been the cause for Vivek Moitra's death and Rahul Mahajan's present state, is now proving a "saviour" for addicts in Switzerland.

A study published in the Lancet on Friday has revealed that liberalisation of drug laws in Zurich has led to a massive fall in the number of new heroin users by transforming the image of heroin into a "loser drug".

The new approach has medicalised heroin use and removed its glamour. Crime and deaths linked with drugs have fallen and the image of heroin use has been transformed from one of rebellion to an illness.

Research carried out by Carlos Nordt of the Psychiatric University Hospital in Zurich showed that Zurich's adoption of a liberal drug policy a decade ago has seen a 82% decline in new users of heroin.

Nordt and psychiatrist Rudolf Stohler examined more than 7,000 heroin users from 1991 in an attempt to evaluate trends and the prevalence of problematic heroin use in Switzerland.

The report said that drug use in Zurich rose rapidly from 80 new registered users in 1975 to 850 new users in 1990.

Since 1991, when substitution treatment became available to all heroin users in Zurich, the number of new addicts dropped sharply to 150 in 2002. The overall number of heroin addicts in the city has declined by 4% a year.

The researchers say the finding confounds critics of the liberal approach who predicted that it would increase drug use.

Researchers said in the Lancet, "Finally, heroin seems to have become a loser drug with its attractiveness fading for young people.

The change has been achieved by offering drug addicts in Switzerland substitution treatment with injectable heroin on prescription, as well as oral methadone, needle exchange and shooting galleries where they can give themselves shots under supervision."



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