Waiting for a Legal Shot
In February 2008 the Danish parliament made an almost unanimous decision to launch a 9,5 Million € medical heroin maintenance project. This decision put an end to a 15 years long debate on how to treat those “hard core” heroin users who do not want or who cannot abstain from using heroin for a longer period of time. Denmark is the first country where decision makers introduced heroin maintenance as a permanent service without a trial. There was a significant political opposition to the idea of providing addicts with the drug of their addiction: some people considered this step as a full surrender in the war on drugs. “Why don’t you treat the real problem, that is, addiction itself?”, they asked. However, even opponents had to confess that recently there is no silver bullet to “kill” addiction: it is still a chronic, relapsing social and health condition, not curable in the short run. Most heroin users try to quit several times and relapse even more before they can stop the circle: it is not our choice to decide when. But it is our choice to help them to survive heroin use without getting infected with HIV and hepatitis C, or felling victim to a lethal overdose. It is our choice to let people use on the street or to create a supervised environment for opiate users where they can use sterile injecting equipment and dispose their used syringes safely. It is also important for the whole society where these people get their daily doses from: whether they purchase it from the black market, that is, from criminal organizations, or from a legal medical clinic, in controlled quality and quantity. Most heroin users commit crimes in order to feed their habit. If you provide them with cheap medical substitutes of street drugs, they should not get involved in criminal activities and prostitution to avoid withdrawal symptoms. What is more, a significant proportion of the patients of heroin maintenance programs will be able to build a new life and quit heroin use.