Heroin trial 'wins backing'
19 November 2003 , AMSTERDAM — Amid contradictory reports, several Dutch media outlets said on Wednesday that based on evidence indicating it will reduce the crime rate and yield health benefits, Health Minister Hans Hoogervoorst has backed the expansion of the trial supply of heroin to long-term addicts.
19 November 2003
AMSTERDAM — Amid contradictory reports, several Dutch media outlets said on Wednesday that based on evidence indicating it will reduce the crime rate and yield health benefits, Health Minister Hans Hoogervoorst has backed the expansion of the trial supply of heroin to long-term addicts.
The Netherlands has conducted an experiment in recent years in supplying heroin via prescription to 300 chronic long-term addicts who had used the drug on average for 16 years and had an average age of 39.
The trial was conducted in six large cities — namely Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht, Heerlen and Groningen — and statistics indicate that the level of criminality significantly reduced.
Drug addicts need a fix of heroin every day to prevent the onset of withdrawal symptoms and thus commit regular thefts to obtain the required cash. The municipal authorities involved in the trial supply of the drug have applauded the initiative for reducing the crime rate and improving public safety.
Minister Hoogervorst is thus reportedly in favour of extending the trial to the cities of Eindhoven, Enschede, Apeldoorn, Zwolle and Haarlem and transforming the experiment into a form of ongoing healthcare. The Cabinet is expected to make its official decision on Friday, Dutch associated press ANP reported.
The government accord reached between the Christian Democrat CDA, Liberal VVD and Democrat D66 included plans to continue the trial supply at is present level and Hoogervorst had refused up until know to reveal whether he was in favour of expanding the programme.
Meanwhile, the Trimbos Institute — which is involved in mental health and addiction — has also said evidence from the trial showed that the physical and mental health of long-term addicts improved with the supply of heroin and — in combination with methadone programmes — the trial led to a reduction in supplementary drug use
Consequently, an advisory commission advised the government in the summer to expand the trial to 15 cities and extend it to 1,600 drug addicts It said the supply of heroin would cost EUR 15 million each year, but the reduction in criminality would yield between EUR 17 and 20 million in annual savings.
There are between 25,000 and 28,000 opiate addicts in the Netherlands, some of whom are also on methadone programmes. Most methadone participants still use heroin and international studies — such as in Britain and Switzerland — have also indicated positive results for the supply of heroin via prescription.
But an RTL 4 news report had earlier said on Wednesday that the Cabinet had decided against expanding the trial supply of heroin to addicts, enraging the mayors of the larger Dutch cities.
It said that coalition minority party D66 was in favour of the trial, but VVD Minister Hoogervorst had said the government — which is cutting a record EUR 17 billion from the budget between now and 2007 to resurrect government finances suffering amid a grim economic climate — could not afford the project.
In response, Amsterdam Mayor Job Cohen — who urged the Lower and Upper Houses of Parliament in September to continue and even expand the trial — was quoted as saying that the cabinet had simply miscalculated.
He claimed it would cost the government EUR 45 per day to supply heroin to a junkie, while criminality cost a city EUR 150 on a daily basis.
At the time of publication, the Health Ministry had not responded to telephone calls requesting confirmation of the minister's stance.
[Copyright Expatica News 2003]
Subject: Dutch news