In the UK, Is Enabling More Drug Use the Only Answer to Drug Deaths?

The United States is not alone in struggling with increases in the number of drug-related deaths. In England and Wales, record numbers of people are dying as a result of their use of heroin, cocaine and MDMA. A greater number of these people are those are in an older age bracket than previously, leading analysts to conclude that older drug users, possibly those in poor health, are losing lengthy battles with addiction.


The director of a harm reduction organisation criticised the government for its focus on abstinence rather than, as she put it, ’safer drug consumption rooms and prescribing heroin.’ In other words, she is in favour of providing those who are addicted, with medically-supervised rooms where they can inject drugs safely and the prescription of pharmaceutical-grade heroin (referred to as heroin-assisted treatment).

This approach to the problem of drug abuse is somewhat of a double-edged sword. On one hand, some lives are saved through these approaches. A person who might otherwise fatally overdose can be saved if that overdose occurs in a drug consumption room. And a person who has failed at earlier rehab efforts may find his life stabilising if he is provided with the substance he’s addicted to rather than having to commit crimes and buy unpredictable, adulterated heroin on the street. That’s the benefit of harm reduction services.

On the other hand, some people might be queasy about these solutions, since they both enable the continued use of drugs. It might feel immoral to them for the government to facilitate drug use. Queasiness aside, there is yet another layer to the problem created by this approach to dealing with the drug problem.

And that is this: Is this the best solution to the problem of drug use and addiction to these terribly destructive substances? Should our emphasis stop there? If it is possible to help people recover fully from addiction and learn to enjoy the sensation of being fully drug-free, shouldn’t we pull out all the stops to help each of them achieve that state?

It seems that some people don’t think it’s possible to lead the addicted back to stable drug-free lives. But at Narconon rehabilitation centres in the UK and around the world, that is our only job. We don’t simply reduce the harm that comes from using drugs, we help each person address the damage done by drug abuse and then help them build the life skills they need to stay productively sober.

Happy woman

For most people, it takes far more than meetings to help them build new enjoyable lives. It takes real change, real learning, real recovery from the trauma of the past. The Narconon programme has a fifty-year history of offering real recovery from addiction to tens of thousands of people from every corner of the world. We will continue helping these individuals in need build new sober lives, without the need for any addictive substances.


Karen Hadley

For more than a decade, Karen has been researching and writing about drug trafficking, drug abuse, addiction and recovery. She has also studied and written about policy issues related to drug treatment.