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THE evidence is clear that heroin prescription works in reducing health harms and criminal behaviour, says Michael Moore, CEO of the Public Health Association of Australia and president of the World Federation of Public Health Associations.
“The heroin epidemic of the late 1990s dropped considerably for some time,” says Mr Moore, a former health minister in the ACT. “However, around the world there is once again increasing use of heroin.”
He will be the facilitator of a panel discussion at the next IGPA Canberra Conversation Public Lecture Series titled “Heroin Prescription: The Need for Rational Policy”, organised in association with the Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform. He will be joined by Dr Marianne Jauncey, director of the Medically Supervised Injecting Centre in Kings Cross and David McDonald, an interdisciplinary social scientist and policy analyst.
Mr Moore says it is time to pick up the debate from where it left off nearly 20 years ago when then Prime Minister John Howard overrode the approval decision by the Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy comprising Federal, state and territory ministers.
“The work done at the ANU in the 1990s was not implemented in Canberra,” he says.
“However, it was used to inform the introduction of heroin prescription policies in Switzerland and has been proven a success.
“Since that time heroin prescription has been tried and found not only to be effective in a conservative country like Switzerland – it has also proved to be popular. This is because it has worked in reducing criminality and reducing the health harms associated with using ‘street’ heroin.
“The program running in Switzerland has even been tested through a referendum with overwhelming support. The evidence is there. The only question is why would Australia not adopt something that we know improves health outcomes and reduces criminality.
“The fundamental debate is really around illicit use of heroin and the most effective way to protect our community.
“The medicinal cannabis debate has opened the community’s eyes to the arbitrary nature of the different drugs that have been prohibited. “However, it is quite a different debate to this, one that is really focused on dependent users.
“It is interesting that heroin (diacetylmorphine) and morphine are so closely related but receive an entirely different response in the community. My understanding is that the preference for heroin users has to do with the ‘rush’ from heroin that is not associated with morphine.”
The event, at the Theo Notaras Multicultural Centre, London Circuit, Civic, 12.30pm-1,30pm, Thursday, July 27, is free and open to the public. There will be time for questions and discussion. Registrations to eventbrite.com.au