West Midlands drug addicts to be given free HEROIN on the NHS
Drug addicts will be given free heroin on the NHS under radical plans unveiled by the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner.
David Jamieson says the move – which has been backed by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) – will take the drugs market away from criminal gangs.
He admitted today: "Our approach to drugs is failing."
Police and Crime Commissioner for Staffordshire Matthew Ellis said he agreed 'absolutely' with Mr Jamieson, but was concerned criminals would take advantage.
He said: "I think dealing with individuals who are vulnerable, and trying to keep people with medical problems out of the criminal justice system - I support that 100 per cent. But the difficulty is that we don't want unintended consequences that taking these drugs is not illegal, because it is illegal."
The measure would give doctors the power to prescribe heroin to addicts who have failed to respond to other treatment, in a bid to stop them from stealing to fund their addiction.
It forms part of a range of recommendations Mr Jamieson describes as 'common sense proposals' brought in to 'tackle the scourge of drugs head on'.
They include Drug Consumption Rooms set up across the region where addicts can inject heroin using clean needles and have access to medical support.
Beat officers will be equipped with medication to help overdosing druggies; towns and cities will have drug testing areas set up; and money seized from dealers will be used to fund treatment programmes.
Mr Jamieson said: “These are bold, but practical proposals that will reduce crime, the cost to the public purse and the terrible harm caused by drugs. These proposals tackle the drugs market head on, hitting the organised criminals profiting from the misery of others."
He added: “I will be working tirelessly over the coming months to build coalitions to get these proposals into action.
“Drug use and dependence should first and foremost be treated as a health issue. We should be tackling the root causes of crime, rather than just react to criminality that follows.
“We currently have an approach that is soft on the big-time criminals who are profiting from the misery of others and weak on giving people the support they need to recover from addiction.
“I am determined to reverse that. My proposals will take the market away from the organised gangs and ensure that those who need support to recover get it.”
Mr Ellis said: "I'm concerned that giving an inch is seen as turning a blind eye. Like methadone is provided for people with a heroin addiction, and now there is a criminal methadone market."
He added: "I'm supportive of trying something new. It's about trying to strangle the market so there is not a criminal market in drugs. It's the right idea, the right ambition but it is very difficult to do.
"We need to join our approach up much better. We have to work much, much closer than we ever have before.
"If we have any chance of making this work we need the police to continue what they're doing and hammer down on criminals hard. But we need to make sure there is decent treatment and there is the ability to get these people off those drugs without having criminal gangs move into the methadone market."
- Express & Star comment: Bold to say the war on drugs is failing
The plans follow a report by the PCC that estimated the cost of substance misuse in the West Midlands to be £1.4 billion a year.
It said that half of all burglary, theft, shoplifting and robbery is committed by drug addicts. The number of heroin and crack cocaine users in the West Midlands is estimated at 22,000.
Across the region crime rocketed by 14 per cent over the past year, with robberies up by 27 per cent.
RSPH chief executive Shirley Cramer said: "These recommendations are an important and welcome contribution to the growing momentum behind common sense drug policy reform in the UK."