A treatment-based approach to tackling hard drugs that works | Letters

Barry Coppinger writes about the successes of heroin-assisted treatment in Middlesbrough. Plus a letter from Dr Michael Symonds

Simon Jenkins (Even England’s police want to decriminalise hard drugs. Why won’t our posturing politicians listen?, 20 December) understandably calls for a more treatment-based approach to tackling hard drugs. He rightly cites frontline experience by police in evolving their approach.

In Middlesbrough we introduced the first heroin-assisted treatment (HAT) programme in the UK over a three-year period. There is much evidence, collated by Teesside University; much expertise, of the Foundations medical practice, which provided a three-times-daily service; and much experience, of a public health and criminal justice group I brought together and chaired to oversee it.

HAT was this year endorsed by the home affairs select committee as a model of good practice – not only saving money, reducing crime and saving lives, but also helping people to move on and grow from their addiction, in a town and a region with some of the highest death rates in the country. It sadly closed at the end of this year through lack of funding being committed.

I’ve always maintained it’s not about being “soft” on crime or “tough” on crime, but smart on crime – the question is how many more lives have to be lost before we as a society wise up?
Barry Coppinger
Police and crime commissioner for Cleveland 2012-20

• Simon Jenkins makes a compelling case for decriminalising “hard drugs”. Given the annual UK tax revenue from tobacco is £10.9bn, and alcohol £12.7bn, it is likely that a comparable income would be generated if the sale of hard drugs was similarly legalised and monetised. More than enough to pay for a wage rise for all public sector workers that meets the rate of inflation.
Dr Michael Symonds
Loughborough, Leicestershire

Have an opinion on anything you’ve read in the Guardian today? Please email us your letter and it will be considered for publication.

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Lack of decent jobs fuels UK drugs trade | Letters
Letters: An economy rooted in precarity means county lines will continue to be seen as part of a way out of poverty, writes Nick Moss, while Chris Hughes says the Crown Prosecution Service should target the adults who recruit children to sell drugs


17, Sep, 2019 @5:32 PM

Article image
It doesn’t make sense to leave alcohol out of the drugs debate | Letters
Letters: Blaine Stothard is puzzled as to why recent articles have not mentioned alcohol, and Owen Wells says the criminalisation of drugs in 1971 has a lot to answer for


25, Sep, 2017 @5:46 PM

Article image
The Guardian view on illegal drugs: the laws don’t work | Editorial
Editorial: A new minister in Scotland is on a mission to cut drug deaths. But a fresh approach to a complex problem is needed across the UK


22, Feb, 2021 @7:34 PM

Article image
Trashing evidence-based drugs policy | David Nutt
David Nutt: Alan Johnson got his way on mephedrone, but good drug policy depends on looking beyond the media-driven demand for action

David Nutt

01, Apr, 2010 @3:02 PM

Article image
Knife crime demands joined-up thinking from the authorities | Letters
Letters: Spending more on youth services, crime prevention and community policing worked in Glasgow, readers point out. But other factors also need to be taken into account


08, Apr, 2018 @4:49 PM

Letters: Treatment policy will boost street drugs
Letters: The only beneficiaries will be the importers, distributors and sellers of street heroin

19, Jul, 2010 @11:05 PM

Article image
Police 'express alarm' over cuts impact on tackling drugs
Report reveals that 58% of all forces in England expect to reduce spending on policing illicit drugs

Alan Travis, home affairs editor

11, Oct, 2011 @1:38 PM

Police war on hard drugs falters

Fewer heroin and cocaine dealers are arrested since cannabis downgrade.

Martin Bright, home affairs editor

19, Jun, 2005 @4:19 PM

Police urge radical shift on drugs
Senior police officers clashed sharply with the home secretary, David Blunkett, today when they called for a radical shift on drug policy.

Staff and agencies

20, Nov, 2001 @3:25 AM

Article image
Top police chiefs warn Mike Barton: be careful about message on drugs

Durham chief constable's peers say police need to be 'thoughtful about setting clear boundaries' for young people

Sandra Laville and Henry McDonald

29, Sep, 2013 @11:56 AM