HEROIN should be supplied free to addicts in Glasgow to help solve the city's burgeoning drugs problem, a Scottish Labour MP has proposed.
William McKelvey, whose Scottish Affairs Select Committee investigation into drug abuseout a British city via the National Health Service.
Handing out pure, clean supplies of the drug in Glasgow would, he adds, help to stop junkies making lethal opiate cocktails, which have killed around 300 youngsters in the past three years alone.
His proposals have been criticised by Labour's home affairs spokesman, government ministers, the police and Greater Glasgow Health Board. But a number of drugs counsellors, health professionals and addicts welcomed the idea.
In an interview with the Independent on Sunday, Mr McKelvey, who visited cities in Europe and the United States while compiling the select committee's report, published last summer, said the "grave extent" of drug abuse in Glasgow meant the city was "ripe for a radical new initiative".
He pointed out that most of the addicts who had died in recent years had overdosed after mixing heroin with other drugs - in particular, sleeping tablets, painkillers and alcohol. Junkies make the high-strength opiate cocktails because the quality of heroin on Glasgow streets has declined sharply in recent years.
If clean, pure supplies of the drug were handed out by NHS doctors, Mr McKelvey said, addicts would stop mixing and the death rate would drop.
He explained: "In Britain the Government has acknowledged that people take drugs, and that addicts have special problems which require unusual solutions. The NHS has already met the needs of the drug-using population half-way in the interests of the public good by, for example, giving out free, clean needles to encourage safe injecting practices and reduce the level of HIV and hepatitis infection.
"In Glasgow, where heroin kills two young people on average each week, it is now time for the NHS to go the whole way. If pure, clean heroin was selectively decriminalised and supplied free to those addicts who wanted to kick their habit, it would drastically reduce the level of mixing and the death rate would decline. At the same time, drugs-related crime, which costs the city up to pounds 1bn each year, would drop. …