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Drug addicts could soon be prescribed heroin in new plans to aim to reduce the level of drug-related crime.

This morning, (January 12), the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson announced new proposals which would see heroin users being offered the drug in a medical setting.

Only giving the prescribed drug to addicts who had not responded to other forms of treatment, it’s hoped these proposals will lower the number of drug-related deaths and crimes, which in turn, cuts the cost of drugs to public services.

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Jamieson claims by prescribing heroin, the market will be taken away from organised criminals and will also stop people stealing to fund their addiction.

The proposals are a part of a new wide ranging drugs policy plan, which the commissioner announced today.

The plan also includes further proposals to use courts to seize more assets from gangsters, training police officers in how to use naloxone (a medication that can be used to help those overdosing) and establishing a Drug Early Warning Programme, aiming to inform the public on the impact of emerging drugs.

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The proposals come after a report was published last September which estimated £1.4 billion is spent every year in the West Midlands to treat substance abuse.

The same report also stated half of all burglaries and robberies are committed by people who suffer from a serious drug addiction, more specifically heroin and crack cocaine.

It’s also thought these two drugs are responsible for one person dying every three days in the region.

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Jamieson hopes his heroin policy will make a difference on the streets before he leaves office in 2020.

The policy has always been tested in various countries abroad including Switzerland and the Netherlands.

Speaking about his proposals, Jamieson said:

Despite the good work being done by many, collectively, our approach to drugs is failing. It means people are forced to live with more crime, public services are put under strain and not enough is done to reduce the suffering of those who are addicted.

If we are to cut crime and save lives there’s one thing we can all agree on; we need fresh ideas. These are bold, but practical proposals that will reduce crime, the cost to the public purse and the terrible harm caused by drugs.

These proposals tackle the drugs market head on, hitting the organised criminals profiting from the misery of others and will save the public sector money by reducing the strain on services that currently exists.

Drug use and dependence should first and foremost be treated as a health issue. We should be tackling the root causes of crime, rather than just react to criminality that follows.

My proposals will take the market away from the organised gangs and ensure those who need support to recover get it.

Jamieson also added he aims to work with ‘partner organisations’ to best deliver these plans.

Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive, Royal Society for Public Health, endorsed the proposals stating:

These recommendations from the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner are an important and welcome contribution to the growing momentum behind common sense drug policy reform in the UK.

Health professionals, police and the public are all agreed a public health approach – rather than a criminal justice one – to drug policy is what is needed to tackle rising rates of drug harm in this country and beyond.

We know that diverting people suffering as a result of harmful substance use away from the criminal justice system and into treatment leads to better outcomes for the individual and for society and we know that pragmatic harm reduction interventions such as drug consumption rooms, heroin assisted treatment and drug safety testing can play an extremely helpful role in that process.

It’s heartening to hear more influential voices, with on the ground experience of these issues, give these measures their backing.

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The proposals are also being applauded by various drug and alcohol charities across the country.

In a statement given to UNILAD, Niamh Eastwood, executive director of Release, praised the plans saying:

The West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner’s recommendations for reducing the harms of drugs are based on evidence and would undoubtedly save lives if implemented.

The WMPCC’s call for a consideration of drug consumption rooms (DCRs) is rooted in evidence and must be welcomed.

By providing a safe and sterile place for people to use drugs, DCRs can save lives, provide treatment access, reduce strain on emergency services and make the streets safer for everyone.

DCRs are already saving lives in eight European countries and Canada and Australia have been endorsed by the
British Medical Association.

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A spokesperson for drug and alcohol charity Addaction told UNILAD:

Research shows Heroin Assisted Treatment can help highly vulnerable drug users to stabilise their lives.

It’s not suitable for every case, but it’s been proven to help people who unsuccessfully tried opioid substitution therapy like methadone. Heroin Assisted Treatment can be effective in keeping people in treatment where other options have failed.

At a time when drug-related deaths are at an all-time-high, the priority is getting people who need treatment into effective, evidence-based recovery programmes.

With opioid-related deaths currently at a record high in the UK, a solution is needed and it’ll be interesting to see if these proposals provide the much needed answers.

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