2005-02-03

Stats & Health: Heroin Does Not Always Lead to Problems

It can be possible to live a 'normal' life while regularly taking heroin, researchers in Scotland have claimed. 'The Glasgow Caledonian University' study of 126 users of the 'Class-A drug' found many were holding down normal jobs, relationships, and passing exams. Their report said heroin could be taken in a controlled way for an extended period -- without the health problems commonly associated with its use. The research by Mr.Shewan and his colleague Mr.Phil Dargarno was funded by 'The Chief Scientist Office'.
The 126 people studied in Glasgow had been taking heroin for an average of seven years and were not receiving treatment for their drug use. Most of those involved in the study were in a relationship -- and one-third had children. In contrast to those receiving treatment for heroin use, three-quarters were employed and one-third were placed at the top end of the job sector. Some 64 per cent had continued in education after secondary school, and 11 per cent were in full-time higher education at the time of the research. Unemployed people accounted for just 15 per cent of the group, and only 5 per cent had no educational qualifications. The study found that heroin users could maintain occupations and achieve educational qualifications which were comparable with the general UK population -- and were considerably higher than normally found in heroin research. In the first phase of the study, 30 per cent of those involved reported drug-related health problems, although most did not require medical treatment. Only a handful of those surveyed said they regularly injected heroin. The group seemed 'reasonably satisfied' with their level of physical health, with almost 48 per cent describing their health as good and just 7 per cent describing it as bad or fairly bad. Just 15 per cent reported that their heroin use had been associated with 'family problems', only one blamed the drug for the break-up of a 'long-term' relationship and nobody's child had been taken 'into care'. While 60 per cent reported a negative effect on their employment or education, only two people said drug 'misuse' had 'cost them their jobs'. By the end of the study only six participants had begun specialist drug treatment.
The report's author, Mr.David Shewan, said the concept of controlled drug use was a 'largely unexplored' area of research.
'This study shows that the chemical properties of specific substances-- including heroin -- should not be assumed to inevitably lead to addictive and destructive patterns of drug use', he said. 'Drug research should incorporate this previously hidden population to more fully inform theory and practice. 'Psychological and social factors have to be taken into account when looking at how to deal with any form of addiction -- including heroin addiction'.
Mr.Victor Adebowale, chief executive of specialist alcohol and drug organisation 'Turning Point', said:
'This report isn't saying that "heroin is safe"; it says that if you have a job, if you have a house, an income, are well educated and have a health system to support you: it's possible to survive an addiction to a "pretty serious" substance. 'Most people don't have this -- and have "mental health challenges" as well as a heroin "problem"'.
'The Scottish Executive' said the research suggested that there may be a place for heroin prescription, but there were no plans to offer it in Scotland. Ministers also stressed that heroin is an illegal drug which 'ruins lives and damages communities'. 'Controlled heroin use 'possible', BBC NEWS, 2005/02/03 09:57:22 GMT

2 Comments:

Blogger Dave said...

The media made a huge fuss about this, saying it was 'morally irresponsible' and that it sends the wrong message.

I find it strange that research can be called this; why is it not 'morally irresponsible' to splash it all over the front pages, with scare headlines like 'Heroin is OK'? Why is it OK for the media to 'send the wrong message'? (for they surely are misrepresenting the findings, the motivations and the intentions, as well as doing no favours to the researchers, those studied, and the application of the findings in helping people now and in the future -- across the globe).

The statistics are just that: what was found. If this generates further studies, then (shock, horror), what if heroin use is in fact managed by 'normal' people -- what if it is not exclusively the domain of the disadvantaged poor in ghettoes? What if it does not INEVITABLY lead to ill health, mental and social instability?

Would it not be best to KNOW the TRUTH? Why must we adhere to the bleak stereotypes -- how exactly would THAT help the overall situation?

I for one would like to know if my lawyer, a judge, a policeman, a teacher (etc) were regular heroin users, I would like to know the extent of the drug use, the effects it may have, and what might be done -- if anything.

Better than sticking my head in the sand like the mainstream media seem to desire....perhaps they have something to hide?

2/03/2005 06:51:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Claims that herion does not always lead to problems proves that claims that heroin does not always lead to problems always leads to problems.

2/09/2005 01:45:00 am  

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