Swiss back heroin prescription for addicts

Sun Nov 30, 2008 5:14pm EST
 
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By Katie Reid

ZURICH (Reuters) - Swiss voters on Sunday backed a scheme allowing heroin addicts to obtain the drug under prescription, angering conservatives who believe crime will rise as result.

Some 68 percent voted in favor of the prescription program that was already approved by parliament, making permanent an experiment that has been in place since 1994.

The referendum was instigated by the right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP), which wanted to overturn parliament's decision.

Advocates of the program say that allowing addicts to be prescribed heroin makes them less likely to turn to crime to pay for their habit and that the treatment can lower mortality rates.

Opponents of the scheme say it has done little to encourage users to give up heroin.

Switzerland's cities were plagued with drug problems in the 1990s, but drug-related crime has declined and addicts' health has improved due to government health plans.

"The people have confirmed that the conditions of the 90s, with open drug scenes in all towns, must belong to the past," the Social Democrats said in a statement.

The Green party also welcomed the result.   Continued...

 
<p>A small kit of supplies containing syringes, bandaids and antiseptic pads waits to be used by a drug addict inside a safe injection site on Vancouver, British Columbia's eastside August 23, 2006. Swiss voters on Sunday backed a scheme allowing heroin addicts to obtain the drug under prescription, angering conservatives who believe crime will rise as result. REUTERS/Andy Clark</p>