Durham police to offer heroin-assisted treatment

Durham Constabulary is planning to become the first police force in England to offer heroin-assisted treatment to problem drug users.

Under the proposals, people whose drug use had led to prolific offending would be able to follow a programme designed to ‘stabilise their addiction in a controlled environment’ and reduce their dependency until they stopped taking heroin altogether, said Durham police, crime and victims’ commissioner, Ron Hogg. They would also be expected to engage with conventional treatment at the same time.

‘I have asked our local public health departments to suggest a series of options which would enable us to introduce heroin-assisted treatment in the Durham area,’ he stated, with the annual cost of heroin-assisted treatment estimated at around a third of that of keeping someone in prison. ‘The aim of the initiative is to save the lives of addicts, shut down drug dealers and reduce acquisitive crime. Instead of stealing in order to fund their habit, and money flowing the organised crime gangs, addicts will be helped to recover. The costs associated with it would be saved through reduced costs in the longer term to the courts, prisons, the police, and wider society.’

Glasgow is also planning to open a consumption room and offer heroin-assisted treatment, after city officials approved the development of a business case late last year (DDN, November 2016, page 4).

The Durham scheme is likely to prove controversial, however, with an editorial in the Mail on Sunday stating that ‘law-abiding, hard-working citizens whose taxes are used to pay for heroin may feel they have been mugged by the taxman to pay for someone else’s bad behaviour’, and adding that the ‘biggest objection’ was that the plan was sponsored by a police force. ‘Their job is to uphold the law,’ it said. ‘They cannot actively help people to do something that would be illegal in other circumstances. It is a step too far.’