States press Merkel party to approve free heroin in Germany
September 21, 2007
State governments in Germany stepped up pressure Friday for free heroin
to be handed out to hopeless addicts, an approach which they said
weakens the drug culture.
Hundreds of addicts already receive up to three free doses a day of the
drug in seven German cities under what is officially a pilot scheme. The
states want health-insurers nationwide to pick up the tab in future.
The drug, also known as diamorphine, is made synthetically, rather than
from opium poppies.
A draft bill adopted in the Bundesrat upper house, backed by 13 of the
16 German states, will be referred to the Bundestag lower house.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s own party, the Christian Democratic Union
(CDU), opposes the burden being placed on insurers and instead proposes
more “pilot” projects where needed.
The heroin is given to addicts who have failed to break the habit using
a substitute, methadone. The conservative CDU says the main aim should
continue to be weaning them.
Birgit Schnieber-Jastram, the social-welfare minister in Hamburg,
contended that free issue in her state had reduced drug consumption
overall and enabled addicts to end contact with drug dealers.
A federal drugs official, Sabine Baetzing, said about 3,500 addicts in
Germany would benefit if heroin were available in every town.