Danish heroin clinic opens

For over 15 years Danish politicians have argued over plans to prescribe heroin but on Monday Denmark opened a clinic that will supply 120 addicts with state funded diamorphine (heroin). This service will not be available to everyone only long-term addicts who cannot satisfy their addiction with opioid substitution treatment (OST). Some addicts who are on OST continue to use street heroin and continue engaging in illegal activity and put themselves and others in danger. Also according to Matt McNamee from the drug charity Release “methadone is harder to come off and can give people a second habit.”

Since 1st January adult heroin addicts who have not succeeded OST have been eligible for two doses of heroin paid for by the Danish government but now they have a clinic to provide the service. According to Dr Peter Edge, Head of Medical Service, Municipality of Copenhagen. There is an estimated 20,000 heroin users in Denmark, 300 of which are probably hardcore addicts who have failed other treatment. The prescription heroin service is voluntary and also supervised - addicts cannot take the heroin home with them - following the models of other European countries which also have similar programs. Over the last two years the Danish government have been monitoring projects in Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands and the results seem positive.

There have been many criticisms of these projects as the idea of a government paying for people to take drugs is a bit far-fetched for some. When the UK government announced a nationwide scheme to prescribe some hardcore addicts with heroin some critics likened it to giving alcoholics a prescription of whisky. However this ignores the point that half of the success of the scheme is too stop these individuals engaging in illegal activity and buying drugs of the illegal market.

There is a lot of positive evidence that suggests heroin prescription can be a way to regulate drug use and become another step towards giving up drugs completely. However the head of the clinic and also a doctor Inger Nielsen says that "Our objective is not to cure heroin addicts, but to help those who are not satisfied by methadone by providing them with clean heroin, allowing them to avoid disease and the temptation of criminal acts to obtain the drug,"

You can watch a HCLU film on the project here.