Free heroin 'promotes recovery'

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Brighton is considering whether to introduce drug consumption rooms, where users can take drugs in safe and hygienic conditions.

The idea comes from a year long investigation into how to reduce the city's drug problems.

In the Netherlands they already have a well-established network of so-called shooting galleries.

There are 17 treatment centres across the country which supply addicts with heroin, free of charge and it is part of a strictly monitored, government sponsored programme that the Dutch Justice Ministry says reduces harm and saves money.

The BBC's reporter Anna Holligan met Gilbert Thomas, a psychiatrist who helps to run one of the centres in Utrecht, a city which used to have a huge drug problem.

Speaking to Today presenter Sarah Montague, Mike Trace, vice-chair of the Independent Drugs Commission for Brighton and Hove, explained that "this is only one of twenty way that the commission is looking" at but emphasised that "well managed and well delivered [these services] are a stepping stone towards recovery".

Chip Somers, chief executive of Focus 12, an abstinence based rehabilitation centre, said that he thought that the move would throw the "balance between care and harm reduction techniques completely out of proportion".

"The use of drugs is illegal," he said.

First broadcast on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme on Thursday 18 April 2013.

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