Sunday, July 31, 2005

A million points of fright

British think tank Foresight warns that "the number of hardcore heroin and crack cocaine addicts in the UK could treble in the next 20 years, putting an overwhelming burden on the nation's health and criminal justice systems."
If current trends continue the numbers addicted to class A drugs could reach the one million mark by 2025, with the associated economic and social costs soaring to more than £35bn.
UK harm reduction agencies earlier advised that addicts needed to be steered to early treatment rather than sent to psychiatric facilities and returned to the communities without addressing their addiction.
Other research published last week found that ex-prisoners run a significant risk of death in the two weeks after they are released from jail because they lose their tolerance to heroin while inside jail. The National Addiction Centre, part of the Institute of Psychiatry in London, found they are 40 times more likely to die than the average person during that timespan because of the risk of a drugs overdose.

According to a report by the drugs charity Turning Point, 79,000 people admitting to using the crack in the past year. This means that more people now admit to using crack than to using heroin, which stands at 64,000.
One thing is clear, the current strategy in Britain isn't working any better than the US focus on interdiction and incarceration.
Earlier this month a leaked government document delivered a scathing verdict on efforts to disrupt the drugs supply chain. Profit margins for major traffickers of heroin are so high that seizure rates of between 60-80 per cent are needed to have any impact on the flow of drugs into the country, it warned. At present nothing greater than 20 per cent has been achieved.
The US has had no greater success. Foresight is right. You can't beat the problem, but you can treat it.


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