Friday, June 18, 2010

Norway Contemplates Heroin Treatment Centers for Addicts

Norway took a tentative step towards a more compassionate drug policy this week. The drug in question? Heroin. The tactic? Opening up treatment centers where heavy addicts can receive doses of heroin prescribed by a doctor. The reason? A controversial report delivered to the government by a committee chaired by a well-connected elder statesman.

Norway's leading drug reform group, the Association for Humane Drug Policy, led by Arild Knutsen, called the approach "rational and humane." He told Norwewgian media that "it offers medical professional assessments as grounds for choice of medicine, rather than ideological constraints."

The news of a more relaxed policy follows a recommendation for "heroin addiction treatment"-- even for addicts under 18 -- from an official report by current Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg's father, Thorvald Stoltenberg. The Prime Minister supports the nine-member Stoltenberg committee's recommendations.

The older Stoltenberg's committee -- comprised of a district attorney and a representative from police, government, religious, and community members -- attracted much attention when its findings were leaked a day before publication. The committee has been criticized for not including scientific professionals. Critics challenge Stoltenberg's chairmanship for a supposed conflict of interest: his daughter, Ninni, has suffered heroin addiction. For his part, Stoltenberg told NRK, the Norwegian broadcaster, that he is not "embarrassed" by his committee's recommendations.

Other critics include Norway's Salvation Army, the police community association, and some psychiatrists. The health minister has not taken a position, preferring instead to wait for the results of a broad consultation over the summer.

The Justice Minister Knut Storberget supports the proposals. "My attitude is that here we must dare to think differently. Over 60 per cent of those who sit in Norwegian prisons struggle with significant drug problems, and it shows us that we need other tools that are not subject to punishment and imprisonment."

Heroin may be one of the most widely consumed drugs in Norway. According to Erowid, current Norwegian law lists heroin as Schedule 1. The UK drugs charity states that users can already receive free needles but the opium derivative remains illegal to procure or possess.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

More information with liks to newspaper articles here: