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Should drug addicts be given free heroin?

By Pete Madeley | Health | Published:

A couple from Bridgnorth are among critics of a radical plan to curb drug-fuelled crime.

Sunny Dhadley says support works better than punishment with drug users

The proposal was put forward by Sunny Dhadley, who works with drug addicts in the region.

He said it was time for a ‘fresh approach’ to ‘transform society’ by assisting those suffering from substance dependence.

It comes after West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson unveiled plans that will see free heroin prescribed to addicts, rooms set aside for users to inject heroin and drug testing areas installed in clubs and bars.

But the measures have met with a mixed response. Some people said the scheme would worsen drug abuse rather than reduce it, while others said it was time that addicts were given better support.

Retired NHS worker Diane Pickett, 61, and her husband Joe, 62, both from Bridgnorth, said they had a ‘mixed reaction’ to the plans.

“Obviously there is a lot of crime attached to the drug habit, but there are also many people with illnesses through no fault of their own who can’t get treatment because of the funding of the NHS,” said Mrs Pickett.

Diane and Joe Pickett from Bridgnorth

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“I don’t think it will cut crime, I think it will produce more drug users. Current policing is obviously not working, or they wouldn’t try this.”

David Taylor, 65, from Dudley, said: “It’s a bit surprising, really, because it’s a class A drug that’s been banned and I think it’s quite wrong.

“We’re trying to fight drug abuse with various things and the NHS is under a lot of stress.

David Taylor from Dudley

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“I can’t see how it’s going to help people by giving them heroin. It will just make it worse.

“People do actually break in, pinch cars and mug people for money for heroin, and for other drugs but I don’t think they will stop.”

Colin Carson, 55, from Tettenhall, said: “It’s like giving an alcoholic whisky, in my opinion.

“When you watch programmes on TV you realise how much worse it has got over the last few years, especially in the inner-cities.

Colin Carson from Tettenhall

“You see all the homelessness when you come into town and you wonder how much its to do with alcohol and drug problems.

"Then the bigger picture is that these people will do anything to pay for these things when they’ve got a bad addiction.

“I suppose there is an argument that prescribing heroin might cut crime, but then you think that it’s like rewarding people for being addicts.”

David Jones, 67, from Bushbury, said: “It’s a good thing for some people, but not for others. I’m a bit pessimistic as to what could happen in certain circumstances.

David Jones from Bushbury

“You need better support for people, most drug addicts are living on the streets and just abandoned by society because of their drug habits.”

Mr Dhadley is the manager of the Service User Involvement Team in Wolverhampton, which is seen as a model of best practice across Europe.

He said: “I would welcome a fresh approach in tackling drugs, as the current policy approach is evidently not working.

"I believe supporting those suffering from addiction, rather than punishing people is the way to transform lives and society.

“In my opinion, funding should be transferred from criminal justice and invested into treatment, health, employability and social support, in order to achieve.

“Drug policy reform is long overdue and a new approach would mean that those who are stigmatised would have a fair chance of becoming integrated.”

Pete Madeley

By Pete Madeley
@P_Madeley_Star

Political Editor for the Express & Star. Responsible for local and national political stories, opinion, comment and analysis.

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