UK health bodies have decided to start providing free foil to heroin users to help prevent disease spread by injecting the drug.
The foil has previously been illegal for treatment centres to supply but can now be made available at both public and private facilities.
This has been heralded by supporters as a big step in harm reduction. The foil is of a special grade so it does not produce any noxious chemicals when heated and it provides a harm reducing alternative to injecting heroin. The hope is that more heroin users will inhale the drug which will lower their risk of contracting HIV and other blood borne diseases.
The decision to provide foil has not been popular among everyone though. Peter Reynolds of the UK drug charity Clear said that the new changes were “timid” and called for legalisation of drugs rather than harm reduction tactics. He cited evidence that full legalisation is more effective than trying to control the illegal trade of illicit substances.
No matter where people stand on the issue, the fact remains that the UK still has a serious drug problem. While drug related deaths have declined since 2009, there are still an estimated 300,000 people in the UK using heroin and crack cocaine.
The decision to offer foil to users is an effort to help the eventual recovery of some of these users. However many people feel that foil alone is not enough. While harm reduction can lead to recovery for some, many people may need real treatment and support that can only be provided through help form therapists, counsellors or other trained professionals. Without this type of help, the cycle of addiction will continue and foil will only serve to lower disease rates in addicts.