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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 June 2006, 10:22 GMT 11:22 UK
Mother backs heroin clinic trials
Carol Roberts

A mother whose son died from heroin addiction has said politicians do not take bold steps to deal with drugs because they are scared of a backlash.

Carol Roberts said her son Christopher might have lived if Scotland had heroin clinics like those in Germany.

Calls made on Monday to give addicts heroin on the NHS have been dismissed by Scotland's main political parties.

But one of Scotland's longest-serving drug squad officers, Kenny Simpson, backed the idea "in principle".

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The three-year German project saw addicts receive injections at clinics in seven cities.

Drug deaths dropped by 40% during the time of the project.

Research director Dr Christian Haasen of the University of Hamburg said there were "statistically significant" differences between the groups of users on heroin and those on methadone.

Those taking heroin stayed in treatment longer, were less likely to drop out and used fewer illicit drugs.

Heroin addict Christopher Roberts died three years ago, aged 25.

He had started smoking cannabis but moved on to stronger drugs and ended up injecting heroin.

'Lack of courage'

His mother said Christopher was put on a methadone programme but failed because, like many others, he was always topping up with other drugs.

She said that if there had been heroin clinics like in Germany, her son might be alive today.

"Politicians are always scared of backlash," she said.

"No-one is going to be brave enough to say 'yes we will do this'.

"But someone has to stand up and be counted for this lost generation, because that's what it is."

I don't know if this is necessarily the best way forward, but I certainly don't think that politicians should dismiss it out of hand
Susan Deacon MSP

On Monday, former drugs minister Dr Richard Simpson said the time was right to trial a similar scheme in Scotland.

That call has been backed by Det Sgt Kenny Simpson of Strathclyde Police.

He told BBC Scotland: "In principle we would support a pilot, but it has to be very clearly thought-out.

"It has to be something that is properly and accurately communicated to the public because this is not a soft option when you are a heroin user.

"This is the last step in a process to try and get them into treatment and try and get them off a controlled drug."

Drug user
The heroin clincs in Germany have proved to be a success

Former health minister Susan Deacon said the success of the German trial meant it should be considered.

She said politicians were too often guilty of knee-jerk reactions when it came to drugs issues.

"If we are serious about reducing the number of drug-related deaths and the amount of drug-related crime in our communities then we have to be willing to at least consider all the options," she said.

Ms Deacon pointed out that a number of countries had run pilot projects, including Switzerland and Holland.

"I don't know if this is necessarily the best way forward, but I certainly don't think that politicians should dismiss it out of hand," she added.

Public backlash

Glasgow GP Dr Tom Gilhooley, an advisor on drugs policy to the executive, said Scotland had not followed Europe's lead because politicians feared a public backlash.

But he said there had been no major reaction in other countries and predicted that people in Scotland would also be "pragmatic" about such a step.

The Scottish Executive said there were no plans for any similar heroin projects.

A spokeswoman said ministers were awaiting the results of a limited pilot programme in England.

See Mrs Roberts talk about her son's addiction

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