Will Giving Addicts Foil Really Help Harm Reduction

Free Foil for AddictsNew laws will soon allow harm reduction groups to offer free foil to drug users. This scheme, which is backed by The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), is designed to both reduce harm and encourage more users to go into treatment.

If the foil plan is successful, the ACMD believes it will have two positive outcomes. Addicts will interact with drug treatment centres which will encourage them to get help, and those any addict taking advantage of the foil offer will be less likely to use more dangerous and risky injection methods of drug use.

For those with a heroin or methamphetamine addiction, Foil is especial important. Both of these drugs are commonly injected which can spread disease with dirty needs, harm veins and generally do more damage at the site of injection.  

With the foil, either drug can be smoked which means no needs and far less chance of getting a disease.

This new move has been welcomed by many drug treatment and harm reduction advocacy groups. The Independent Scientific Committee on Drug which is chaired by former ACMD head David Nutt were pleased by the decision but said the governments slow uptake of the foil plan highlights their illogical approach to harm reduction.  This is because the government has stricter regulations around providing foil than it does around providing needles.

"Whilst it is clear from the ACMD's 2010 report that providing foil also provides an opportunity to engage injecting drug users in harm reduction and potentially drug cessation discussions, one of the primary benefits is in encouraging a move away from injecting and therefore reducing the risk of blood borne infections and overdose which affect not only the user but their families as well as wider society in the form of NHS and social costs,” a spokesperson for the ACMD said. "The question here is does the Home Office want to reduce drug harms or simply to send a message about the moral and social worth of drug users?"

If the new foil plan is a success, it could further reduce the already falling numbers of heroin and crack cocaine users. The number of heroin and crack users in England is at an all-time low of  298,752.

There has also been a very promising drop in the number of people under 35 who are using the most dangerous drugs. This could indicate that drug education programs and new treatments are discouraging young people from developing a dangerous habit.

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