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Wednesday, 22 May, 2002, 09:44 GMT 10:44 UK
Drugs proposals 'make sense'
The report by a Home Office committee which recommends the downgrading of certain drugs has been welcomed by drug treatment professionals and users.

Russell Johnson, manager of Birmingham Drugline, said the proposed declassification of cannabis and ecstasy "made sense".

He said drug users drew a distinction between "recreational substances and drugs such as heroin and cocaine which are associated with far greater individual and social problems".

Russell Johnson
Mr Johnson says current drug laws don't work

He also supported the report's findings that a reliance on tough legal means to tackle drug misuse was not a success.

"Purely criminal justice intervention is not a huge deterrent because people don't expect to get caught and also it does not allow people to make the changes to end their drug use," he told the BBC.

"We know treatment is cost effective and it works.

"For example, spend a pound on drug treatments and you'll save 3 in the court system."

Addict's view

The home secretary has already dismissed another of the report's proposals, a call for safe "shooting galleries" or clean places for addicts to inject.

But the idea was supported by one former heroin user, Rachel Lewis.

Rachel Lewis
Former user Rachel supported the proposals

She told BBC Breakfast News that it would offer a clean alternative to the car parks and public toilets, where she used to take drugs.

"It would also reduce the risk of drug paraphernalia being left for the public to find," she added.

She said she would support the introduction of such places on health grounds and "not to encourage people to do it".

"People are going to do it anyway and it just makes it safer for them," she added.

Prescribing heroin

Ian Smith works at the Edge clinic in Trafford, greater Manchester, and is co-author of Heroin Century.

He said the MPs' proposals were a "sign of the evolution" of attitudes towards drugs.

"It's a move away from an unwinnable war on drugs, signalling that we are learning to live alongside drug problems," he said.

He warned that if the government adopted one of the proposals, that more addicts be treated with diamorphine or clinical heroin, it would be costly.

Transform, a group which campaigns for effective drug policies, applauded MPs for their "pragmatic" approach to heroin addicts.

"They have seen evidence from around the world that heroin prescribing and supervised injecting rooms have immense benefits in terms of reducing crime, community safety, and increasing the health of users," said spokesman Steve Rolles.

But he added the group was disappointed the committee had stopped short of calling for the legalisation of cannabis.


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See also:

08 Feb 03 | Medical notes
16 May 02 | UK
22 May 02 | Politics
21 May 02 | Education
01 Mar 02 | Education
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