Switzerland’s Approach to Their Heroin Problem
As a dangerous problem that has taken many lives, the heroin epidemic continues to spiral out of control in the United States. Headlines of drug overdoses are normal in the major cities across the nation, and officials struggle to contain the threat before it causes even more destruction.
If you want to consider a shocking approach to this issue, learning how Switzerland has reduced the number of heroin deaths and overdoses will stun you. In a controversial move that sparked a decades long debate, the Swedish government has been running free heroin clinics. To get a clear, objective picture of the issue at hand, let’s explore the heroin problem and the outcome the controversial approach has provided.
A Close Look at the Heroin Problem
Reviewing the heroin epidemic and the issues it has created for society is a great starting point when you want to make up your mind about the interesting approach. Many users who become addicted to the drug will do almost anything to get their next fix, turning to theft and other crimes.
Users often share needles and contract a range of deadly pathogens as a result. Some heroin addicts even sell the drug to others to fund their own habit, causing heroin addiction to spread like a virus. Those who don’t know how addictive the drug is will try it a few times to experience the effects, becoming addicts before they know it. The doses offered by street dealers are unreliable and inconsistent, and dealers sometimes mix them with filler chemicals to get more money, causing overdoses and other heroin-related deaths.
How it Works
You are now likely wondering how the government-funded heroin program works, and you are not alone. Those who seek treatment need to apply for assistance at a government facility that determines eligibility. The free heroin clinics are open to those who have tried other treatment options without any luck.
Addicts must report to the clinic and take the drug under the supervision of medical professionals, which ensures that addicts won’t be tempted to sell their prescription on the streets. When someone earns an approval and starts heroin treatment, the person can report to the clinic two times each day to receive the lab-created drug.
Reduction in Crime
In major cities across the globe, many violent crimes can be traced back to drug addiction. Feeling desperate for their next dose, addicts will mug strangers on the street and rob gas stations. By giving addicts free access to heroin, Switzerland has reduced the number of violent crimes in the country over the past decade. Instead of robbing people, those who are addicted to it can opt to get the drug in a safe and clean environment. Also, they no longer need to sell heroin to others so that they can fund their habit, and this benefit decreases the number of new addicts.
Reduction in Government Spending
Other than having moral objections, people often complain that providing free heroin to addicts is a waste of government time and money, but you need to look at the facts if you want to decide what path is best. Despite the cost of the drug and employing health care professionals to monitor the injections, heroin clinics have cut government spending.
With fewer crimes being committed, the government saves money by not needing to incarcerate as many people as before. The past 10 years have seen the number of heroin-related HIV cases drop by 50 percent. Without question, reducing the number of people in jail and seeking health care has improved the country’s budget.
Should America Follow the Example?
While Switzerland has been improving its heroin problem, the drug epidemic in the United States is still getting worse every day. You might be asking yourself if the U.S. should follow Switzerland’s example and provide free heroin to those who are already facing addiction. Because we already know the benefits of heroin clinics, we must examine the downsides before we can hope to make a reasonable decision.
Possible Downsides to Free Heroin Clinics
According to critics, one of the biggest downsides to heroin clinics is that they don’t encourage users to stop taking the drug. Rather than using it as a chance to get sober, American addicts might use the opportunity to get a free supply without an incentive to quit. Others argue that we can’t deny access to a beneficial program just because some people will feel tempted to abuse it.
Although it’s a controversial tactic, looking at the facts reveals that Switzerland’s approach to the heroin problem is working, reducing crime and heroin-related health problems. No matter how much we debate the issue, we can never know how the approach would work in the United States until we try. Different people and cultures can respond to different things, but what we know for sure is that without help, the issue will continue to grow.
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- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/heroin/index.html
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/drug-overdoses.htm
- Switzerland: https://www.myswitzerland.com/en-us/
- North Carolina Health News: https://www.northcarolinahealthnews.org/2019/01/28/switzerland-fights-heroin-with-heroin/
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/epidemic/index.html
- Harm Reduction Journal: https://harmreductionjournal.biomedcentral.com/track/pdf/10.1186/s12954-017-0152-3.pdf
- Bureau of Justice Statistics: https://www.bjs.gov/content/dcf/duc.cfm
- National Institute on Drug Abuse: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/heroin/why-are-heroin-users-special-risk-contracting-hivaids-hepatitis-b-c
- National Library of Medicine: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22786464/
- National Institute on Drug Abuse: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/addiction-health