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Swiss approve pioneering legal heroin program

Posted by tothewire on December 1, 2008

heroinGENEVA — The world’s most comprehensive legalized heroin program became permanent today with overwhelming approval from Swiss voters who simultaneously rejected the decriminalization of marijuana.

The heroin program, started in 1994, is offered in 23 centers across Switzerland. It has helped eliminate scenes of large groups of drug users shooting up openly in parks that marred Swiss cities in the 1980s and 1990s and is credited with reducing crime and improving the health and daily lives of addicts.

The nearly 1,300 selected addicts, who have been unhelped by other therapies, visit one of the centers twice a day to receive the carefully measured dose of heroin produced by a government-approved laboratory.

They keep their paraphernalia in cups labeled with their names and use the equipment and clean needles to inject themselves — four at a time — under the supervision of a nurse, and also receive counseling from psychiatrists and social workers.

heroin_brainThe aim is to help the addicts learn how to function in society.

The United States and the U.N. narcotics board have criticized the program as potentially fueling drug abuse, but it has attracted attention from governments as far away as Australia and Canada, which in recent years have started or are considering their own programs modeled on the system.

The Netherlands started a smaller program in 2006, and it serves nearly 600 patients. Britain has allowed individual doctors to prescribe heroin since the 1920s, but it has been running trials similar to the Swiss approach in recent years. Belgium, Germany, Spain and Canada have been running trial programs too.

Sixty-eight percent of the 2.26 million Swiss voters casting ballots approved making the heroin program permanent.

By contrast, around 63.2 percent of voters voted against the marijuana proposal, which was based on a separate citizens’ initiative to decriminalize the consumption of marijuana and growing the plant for personal use.

Olivier Borer, 35, a musician from the northern town of Solothurn, said he welcomed the outcome in part because state action was required to help heroin addicts, but he said legalizing marijuana was a bad idea.

“I think it’s very important to help these people, but not to facilitate the using of drugs,” Borer said. “You can just see in the Netherlands how it’s going. People just go there to smoke.”

Sabina Geissbuehler-Strupler of the right-wing Swiss People’s Party, which led the campaign against the heroin program, said she was disappointed in the vote.

“That is only damage limitation,” she said. “Ninety-five percent of the addicts are not healed from the addiction.”

Health insurance pays for the bulk of the program, which costs 26 million Swiss francs ($22 million) a year. All residents in Switzerland, which has a population of 7.5 million, are required to have health insurance, with the government paying insurance premiums for those who cannot afford it.

Parliament approved the heroin measure in a revision of Switzerland’s narcotics law in March, but conservatives challenged the decision and forced a national referendum under Switzerland’s system of direct democracy.

Jo Lang, a Green Party member of parliament from the central city of Zug, said he was disappointed in the failure of the marijuana measure because it means 600,000 people in Switzerland will be treated as criminals because they use cannabis.

“People have died from alcohol and heroin, but not from cannabis,” Lang said.

The government, which opposed the marijuana proposal, said it feared that liberalizing cannabis could cause problems with neighboring countries.

On a separate issue, 52 percent of voters approved an initiative to eliminate the statute of limitations on pornographic crimes against children before the age of puberty.

The current Swiss statute of limitations on prosecuting pedophile pornography is 15 years. The initiative will result in a change in the constitution to remove that time limit.


13 Responses to “Swiss approve pioneering legal heroin program”

  1. marijuana said

    I’ve been using marijuana for over 30 years on a near daily basis (I’ve stopped when unwell or in hospital). While I can accept it is not entirely harmless, it is far less harmful than many would have us believe. Importantly, for many it can bring enormous benefits – legalise now


  2. R.A.Z said

    if people were left with no laws and a syringe in there hand a huge percentage would take it. to lift the laws on drugs would be stupid poeple clearly arnt capable of dealing with drugs and there selves, the laws stop people and society melting down to crud. in the future it would be nice to think that people would be sensible enough to not wreck there lives, but for now you might as well be feeding the crocodiles.


  3. kush said

    @R.A.Z y shouldnt those people be aloud to make the choice if they want to be addicts its the parents job 2 teach ther kid about the harmfull shit in life, fuck society let it melt to crud what good has it done so far?

    @marijuana One love from canada, Legalize


  4. Enkill_Eridos said

    @R.A.Z You say this but have you seen the drug related crime rate precentages of Amsterdam..pretty damn low. Also look at the Drunk driving percentages in Europe, compared to America non existant. If we remove the taboo we have in place towards certain subjects at first there will be an increase. If done correctly and controlled correctly by the US government, eventually the stigma will fall and people will go eh. America should start with pot first since it is even less harmful than other NSAIDS (Yes Marijana is an NSAID. Non Sterioidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug. In the right dosage it reduces swelling with less harmful effects than Ibuprofen or other NSAIDS.


  5. nimama said

    you guys are just crazy sons


  6. tell mi if i am in meta.28years.i am spanich citicen,i whant to getin heroin program wear are the cities,and what the whant from mi i live in australia for 29 yearmi parnert ist australian,please we have huge adition.we think to move to thr south granada malaga we cant get off meta “ice”areno the way we think visit to chan may we do the trik.


  7. Marie said

    So in order for the government to keep the addiction issues and “junkies” out of the public eye they give them heroin and a place to safely do that heroin.
    That is totally self serving
    They state they offer counseling What addict really wants counseling they re after all getting their blast and are well. Also do you for One minute thing that 2 blasts a day is good enough for most Serious addicts which they claim this program is for those who could not make it in other recovery programs
    How about Methadone?
    At least with methadone you do not have these people sitting shooting heroin.
    They as stated offer this to those who are worse off. So How may i ask are these people able to shoot their heroin come on most hard core addicts have little if any veins Most can not find a vein.
    Most need someone else to “hit” (inject) them.
    The risks of missing their shot (which than makes them want to go shoot more ) and the risk of abscesses and amputations etc etc are all still there.
    Ahh but none of this matters to he government as long as the visitors and higher ups can go to the parks and not see them sitting their doing it in the park.
    I say you build some recovery centers and staff them with Good counselors and doctors and detox the patients and give them serious therapy.
    Provide a half way house and some education career training and send them off into the world to work and be successful working citizens that are a asset and not seen as a blemish
    Placing a band aid on the problem Do not get rid of the problem it just leaves it there festering and growing under that bandage

    By the way I am a recovering addict i shot heroin for 25 years and lived in empty houses. Mosyt those I hung with are not dead to AIDS or Cancer or overdose.

    Methadone got me out alive.


  8. DMT said

    Marie don’t worry, they’ll find a vein. And with therapy and counseling… as they said these people already tried numerous rehabs, detoxes, 12 step support groups etc – it didn’t work. Addiction recovery is hard work and after a few attempts most people don’t have the energy to try again. You have to really, really want it and it’s hard to want it that much after you tried so hard so many times and failed.
    I think all drugs should be legal though. It would make kids less interested in them. And I would set high penalties for driving under the influence (D.U.I.). I’d make special stores and IDs would be required to buy those substances in a limited amount. That way all the money from sales would go to the government (and not black-market thugs) and could be spent helping those who want to try recovery


  9. Some kid in school said

    Yo, MJ should be legalized. Heroin is just for loonies. Crack is wack. 4/20 baby. One love.


  10. Doctor Uggs said

    Yeah yeah who said it. All drugs should be legalized. The best way to reduce harm is to legalize and regulate the industries.


  11. @Doctor Uggs

    It would be the best way if Heroin was ok in small quantities… Which is not the case. It’s a poison, whatever the dosis is.


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