The Independent broke the story this week, and it has been followed up in most of the other nationals, that the Government is planning to roll out shooting galleries for smack addicts, where they can go and get great quality drugs to inject, under supervision and free of cost. Because a group of experts has told the Government "it works".
The fact of "it working" seems to be based on the fact that the programme makes heroin use "an everyday mundanity" and that addicts buy less street heroin once they are enrolled in the programme:
1. Heroin use should never become an everyday mundanity. It is against the law, and the fact that the Government are accepting heroin addiction instead of cracking down and trying to stamp it out reflects an utter poverty of ambition.
2. Of course they buy less street heroin. That's because they are getting purer heroin for FREE at the shooting gallery.
There is no empirical evidence that this programme is more effective than others in getting addicts off the brown stuff altogether, which is surely what we should be aiming for?
The BBC has also reported that these shooting galleries "cut crime". How do they know this? Because the patients enrolled in the scheme were asked: "have you committed any crimes recently?" The addicts duly replied: "No," or possibly: "less than I used to before you gave me lovely free heroin". I would hardly call this conclusive evidence of a drop in drug-related crime. Heroin addicts are not stupid, and they know that if they say they no longer commit crimes, they are more likely to continue getting free drugs. And one thing is for sure: addicts will do almost anything to get a fix. They threaten doctors and pharmacists, they are certainly not going to stop short of telling a few fibs about their income streams.
Many taxpayers will have an objection to paying for something that they have a moral objection to. Further, this scheme comes with a hefty price tag of £15,000 per patient. It is being funded by the NHS, our struggling healthcare system that is currently not able to provide life-saving cancer drugs or hip-ops, without the added burden of doling out free skag.
I have written on this blog before that I agree with needle exchange programmes, but that they must operate for diabetics and addicts alike. We already foot the bill for these needle exchange programmes, as well as methodone treatments, but actually supplying high grade illegal drugs is a step too far.
There are a lot of demands on the resources of hard-pressed taxpayers, and this scheme should not even feature on the list. The Government should focus on looking after law-abiding people who have fallen ill through no choice of their own, and more time enforcing the existing law, which recognises that heroin is a highly illegal drug that ruins the lives not only of addicts but also of their families and in their communities.