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Monday, 26 June, 2000, 10:47 GMT 11:47 UK
Anti-drug policies 'ineffective'
Thousands die from drug-related deaths every year
Experts have called for urgent steps to be taken to reduce the number of deaths among drug addicts.

The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, which advises the government, has criticised anti-drug policies.

Its members said current death rates among addicts were high and "must be reduced substantially.

It is estimated that there was between 1,076 and 2,997 drug-related deaths in England and Wales, in 1998.

The ACMD has recommended action in a number of key areas.

In a report published on Monday, it calls for a "radical curtailment" of methadone-related deaths. It said action to prevent these deaths must be a priority.

Methadone is dispensed by doctors across the UK to addicts as a legal substitute for heroin.

It follows a number of cases earlier this year, where a number of doctor have faced questions from police after patient overdosed on methadone.

The report also criticises drug awareness policies which aim to reduce the use of injectable drugs, such as heroin, among addicts.

Gisela Stuart
Stuart will consider report

It says many drug users are unaware of the risks of injecting drugs and it calls for "new and broader" initiatives to tackle the problem.

The ACMD adds that drug agencies could do more to reduce the use of injected drugs in particular.

"The message should be put strongly and persistently 'never inject, injection is too dangerous'," the report states.

The report also criticises the current system for collecting data on drug-related deaths.

Carefully considered

Health Minister Gisela Stuart welcomed the report and pledged to consider its recommendations "very carefully".

"The government is committed to a 10-year strategy of joint-action for tackling drugs misuse.

"Many of the recommendations in the report are already being acted upon," she said.

She said the government has introduced a wide range of services, ranging from counselling to addiction treatment, to tackle the problem.

The UK anti-drugs co-ordinator Keith Hellawell added: "I greatly welcome the ACMD's report. This issue of measuring drug-related deaths and reducing the number of theses tragedies is an area I have been concerned about for some time.

"I look forward to examining the ACMD's recommendations and considering how these can be most effectively implemented within the government's 10-year strategy."

Roger Howard, chief executive of Drug Scope, said the report highlighted the need to reduce the use of injectable drugs.

"I think the ACMD is giving us a stark warning that we need to do more to tackle viral diseases, such as Hepatitis C."

He said viral diseases would continue to increase unless steps were taken to reduce the use of injectable drugs among addicts.

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