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Registered: 07/06/10
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UK: Legalise heroin and cocaine to cut crime and improve health, top doctor says * 1
    #462019 - 08/17/10 12:07 PM (7 years, 8 months ago)

Sophie Borland

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Tuesday 17 Aug 2010

Personal drug use should be legalised to cut crime and improve health, a top doctor has said.

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, the outgoing president of the Royal College of Physicians, suggested that relaxing the law on possessing substances such as heroin, cocaine and cannabis would not increase the number of addicts.

This could save vast amounts of taxpayers' money, he suggests.

Campaigners in favour of legalising drugs and making them available for free on the NHS claim it would cut crime as addicts would no longer steal to fund their habit.

They also believe that it would lower rates of diseases such as HIV, as users would not share infected needles because clean equipment would be provided.

Sir Ian, who worked as a liver specialist, said: "Every day in our hospital wards we see drug addicts with infections from dirty needles, we see heroin addicts with complication from contaminated drugs."

The expert said he therefore fully supported remarks made by Britain's leading barrister, who last month demanded a review of drug laws.

"I personally back the chairman of the UK Bar Council, Nicholas Green QC, when he calls for drug laws to be reconsidered with a view to decriminalising illicit drugs use,' he said.

"This could drastically reduce crime and improve health.'

Speaking to the BBC this morning, he added: 'Everyone who has looked at this in a serious and sustained way concludes that the present policy of prohibition is not a success.

"There are really strong arguments to look again."

Others argue that such a move would mean less chance of users being harmed by other substances taken with the drugs.

A significant proportion of heroin deaths are believed to be caused by an overdose of quinine, which dealers often combine with the class A drug to make it appear as though there is more.

But critics warned that Sir Ian's views were 'misguided' because they encouraged drug use.

David Green, director of thinktank Civitas, said: "Legalising drugs would simply result in a lot more people taking them.

"The general consensus from research is that drug-taking is part of a dysfunctional life which involves crime. The argument that crime rates would go down is misguided."

He added: "I cannot see how public health would be improved.

"If it is a lot easier to take substances, there would be more people on drugs and therefore requiring medical attention - so overall health rates would deteriorate."

Anders Ulstein, of the Europe Against Drugs pressure group, said: "Legalising drug use will not solve any problems.

"Lots of people appear to have a very ideological stance on this without coming up with replacement methods of stopping people from taking drugs. This debate is very harmful."

Sir Ian's remarks were welcomed by groups campaigning for reforms in drugs law.

Danny Kushlick of Transform, a think tank which believes that making substances illegal causes more harm, said: "Sir Ian's statement is yet another nail in prohibition's coffin.

"Physicians are duty bound to speak out if the outcomes show that prohibition causes more harm than it reduces."

Sir Ian made his remarks in a final email to colleagues before standing down as president of the Royal College of Physicians this month.

But his relaxed attitude on the availability on drugs contrasts sharply to his views on alcohol.

He accused Labour ministers of 'irresponsibility' for failing to stop supermarkets from selling cheap booze.

And he said the party's 24-hour drinking laws would allow pubs and bars to put profits before customers' health.

His comments on drugs follow those of Professor David Nutt last month.

Professor Nutt, who was sacked as the Labour government's top drugs adviser after saying alcohol was more harmful than ecstasy, said Britain needed a radical new approach to drugs laws, which he said could include the regulated sale of some drugs.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1303590/Prof-Ian-Gilmore-Legalise-heroin-cocaine-cut-crime-improve-health.html#ixzz0wr7nQgPs




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